As Veterans Day Approaches, Sen. Schatz & Reps. Pocan, Rangel Urge Congress to Pass Restore Honor to Service Members Act
Legislation Would Correct Record of Service Members Discharged Due to Sexual Orientation
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Members of the LGBT Equality Caucus urged the passage of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act at a press conference on Capitol Hill. The legislation would help service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation correct their military records to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned.
“We have a sacred commitment to every American who serves in our military. But for the 100,000 brave Americans who were forced out for being gay, we have failed to honor that commitment,” said Senator Schatz. “The Restore Honor to Service Members Act would give these veterans a chance to correct their military records—to remove an unwarranted discharge that was given to them for no other reason than being gay. It would remove the mark of shame they carry, give them access to benefits, and finally give them the respect and honor they rightly deserve.”
“As we approach Veterans Day, it’s important to remember the sacrifices our veterans have made for our country,” said Rep. Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. “This includes the selfless service of more than 100,000 veterans who were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Our legislation ensures that gay veterans who served our country no longer live with tarnished records that prohibit them from receiving the recognition, benefits and honors they deserve.”
"As a veteran, I know that our men and women in uniform give all to serve our country with great honor,” said Rep. Rangel. “We can no longer delay honoring these veterans who deserve long overdue recognition. We struck down ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and legalized same sex marriage. Love is not dishonorable."
Since World War II, more than 100,000 Americans are estimated to have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Those forced out of the military may have left with discharge statuses of “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable,” depending on the circumstances. As a consequence, many of these service members may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits that they earned and are entitled to, and may not be able to claim veteran status. The consequences of a negative discharge also include preventing some veterans from voting or making it more difficult for them to acquire civilian employment.
The legislation is supported by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VoteVets.org, OutServe-SLDN, the Human Rights Campaign, American Veterans for Equal Rights, Lambda Legal, Swords to Plowshares, the American Bar Association, Universal Unitarian Association, and the American Humanist Association.
In addition to Representatives Pocan and Rangel, The Restore Honor to Service Members Act has 109 cosponsors, including 4 Republicans, in the House and 37 cosponsors in the Senate.