Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) today announced legislation to correct the military records of service members who were discharged solely due to their sexual orientation. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act would clear the records of LGBT service members whose discriminatory discharges range from “other than honorable” to “general discharge” to “dishonorable,” depending on the circumstances. These discharges can disqualify service members from obtaining the benefits they earned. In addition, these negative discharges can make it more difficult for service members to claim veteran status, vote, and acquire civilian employment. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act would also require the Department of Defense to reach out to veterans who suffered under discriminatory policies such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and alert them of the Department’s process for correcting their records or initiating a review.
“Veterans who honorably served our nation should not have to fight for their benefits,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The Restore Honor to Service Members Act would clear discriminatory discharges they received on their records due solely to their sexual orientation. Our veterans deserve the recognition and benefits they earned for the sacrifices they made for our country, and I urge my colleagues to join me and pass this important bill.”
“This bill is about confronting past discrimination. Hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian veterans were unjustly discharged from the military, and then denied access to the benefits and honorable service records that are rightfully theirs. This bill is a chance for us to make it right,” said Senator Schatz.
Senator Gillibrand has long fought for the rights of LGBT service members and led the successful bipartisan effort to repeal the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In February, she introduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit the Department of Defense from kicking out members of the military solely because of gender identity and to prevent the Department from blocking transgender Americans from signing up to join the Armed Forces. In January, Senator Gillibrand brought decorated transgender Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann, who has been deployed 11 times and won the Navy’s highest logistics award, to this year’s State of the Union address.
The Restore Honor to Service Members Act is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Companion legislation is sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Katie Hill (D-CA), and has more than 100 cosponsors.
Additionally, this legislation is supported by American Veterans for Equal Rights, VoteVets.org, OutServe-SLDN, and the Human Rights Campaign.