On Fifth Anniversary of DADT Repeal, Schatz Renews Call to Restore Honor to Service Members Discharged Due to Sexual Orientation

Bicameral Bill Would Help Recognize Gay and Lesbian Service Members for Honorable Military Service

WASHINGTON— On the fifth anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) renewed his call to restore honor to service members discharged due to sexual orientation.

“Today, we mark five years since that watershed moment when the United States finally ended institutionalized discrimination against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals serving in our armed forces,” said Senator Schatz.  “While our work remains unfinished to ensure that every man and woman discharged from the military solely because of their sexual orientation has the ability to have their record restored to reflect their honorable service, I am proud that the men and women serving today no longer have to hide who they love in order to serve our country.”   

Schatz continued, “While the Department of Defense has made some progress correcting the records of those discharged under this discriminatory policy, the current process to do so remains difficult to navigate for too many veterans. That’s why I introduced legislation to streamline the process and why my office will continue to assist those veterans who were unjustly discharged.  They deserve nothing less from us than our commitment to restoring their records to recognize and thank them for their honorable service.”

Senator Schatz is the lead sponsor of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, bicameral, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by 40 other senators that seeks to ensure that every man and woman discharged from the military solely because of their sexual orientation—including separations under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or before that policy was established—has the right to have their records reviewed and corrected to reflect only their honorable military service.  To learn more about how to initiate a review and correction of your military record, click here.  

Since the Second World War, more than 100,000 service members are estimated to have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation, many with less-than-honorable discharges that have barred them from the benefits that they earned.  For the tens of thousands discharged before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” went into effect in 1994, it is nearly impossible to prove that they were discriminated against and discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. The military did not openly admit its prejudice against gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, but it still used sexual orientation to decide that many service members were unfit to serve, and kicked them out. For many of these veterans, there was no additional aggravating circumstance surrounding their other-than-honorable discharge – only sexual orientation –yet since this discrimination is often not captured in a service member’s record, it is difficult to correct.

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act 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.