October 31, 2014

Restoring honor to gay veterans

Recognizing gay veterans who’ve been kicked out of the military.

U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduces legislation to ensure that gay and lesbian veterans who were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation receive the honor and recognition they deserve. “Our legislation ensures that our courageous gay and lesbian veterans no longer live with tarnished records.”

Pocan, who is openly gay, says there are practical consequences to these discharge classifications and designations, such as encountering difficulties acquiring civilian employment. In many states a dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony conviction. “And depending on the discharge received, service members may be blocked from voting; unemployment benefits; participating in the GI bill; or receiving veterans benefits, such as health care, VA disability, and ceremonial burial rights at military cemeteries.”

The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” ensures all service members who were previously discharged because of their sexual orientation receive a timely, consistent and transparent review of their records, Pocan says, so gay veterans who served honorably could have their records upgraded to indicate such.

This measure, which could affect approximately 114,000 service members, also removes any indication of a service member’s sexual orientation from the record, Pocan says, “so they are not automatically ‘outed.'”

Pocan is introducing the measure along with U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and 100 other bipartisan cosponsors.