The Pentagon is beginning a new effort to contact former service members who may have been forced out of the military and deprived of years of benefits due to policies targeting their sexual orientation, starting with those targeted under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Here’s the whole story.
Correct Their Records
On Wednesday, the Pentagon launched a new effort to contact former service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” to correct their records.
Class Action Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit filed last month on behalf of five LGBTQ+ veterans alleges the federal government has allowed “discrimination to live on in the discharge papers carried by LGBTQ+ veterans” and “has taken no steps to correct this discrimination systematically.”
Serve – But Keep It Quiet
Under DADT, enacted in 1994 by President Bill Clinton and in effect until 2011, service members other than heterosexual orientation could serve as long as they kept it quiet, which led to years of discrimination, undue pressure, discharges, and lost benefits.
Over 32,000 Forced Out of the Military
Under DADT and previous military policies forbidding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer personnel from serving, at least 32,837 service members since 1980 have been forced out of the military for their sexual orientation, according to Department of Defense data.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said, “More than 2,000 of those service members received general, other than honorable, or unknown discharge characterizations.”
“These discharge reasons may have denied them access to veterans benefits, like home loans, health care, GI Bill tuition assistance, and even some government jobs.”
Doesn’t Restore Dignity
She continued, “We know correcting these records cannot fully restore the dignity taken from LGBTQ+ service members when they were expelled from the military.”
Doesn’t Heal Unseen Wounds
She continued, “It doesn’t completely heal the unseen wounds that were left; it doesn’t make people whole again, even for those many who received honorable discharges. But this is yet another step we’re taking to make sure we do right by those who served honorably.”
Difficult to Navigate
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement, “Over the past decade, we’ve tried to make it easier for service members discharged based on their sexual orientation to obtain corrective relief,” he then continued, “While this process can be difficult to navigate, we are working to make it more accessible and efficient.”
Suffered an Error or Injustice
He added, “In the coming weeks, we will be initiating new outreach campaigns to encourage all service members and veterans who believe they have suffered an error or injustice to seek correction to their military records.”
Social Media Reactions to the News
For the most part, responses on social media have been supportive.
Should Have Never Happened
“Good, should have never happened,” declared one reader.
Another joined in, “Bravo! I served during that era, and a lot of great sailors were kicked out because of homosexual witch-hunting.”
We All Bleed the Same Color
“My Dad was a WW2 Vet. D-Day, Omaha Beach First Wave.” When asked his opinion about gays in the military, he said that given “What gay people had to endure in society, he would have gladly had them fighting alongside him in a foxhole.” “We all bleed the same color.” was another user’s thoughts.
The support continued, “That would be an abhorrent wrong righted.” was posted by one reader.
Treated with the Same Respect
“They served this country and deserve to be thanked and treated with the same respect as every other veteran.” agreed another X user.
Some started the political argument, stating, “Wasn’t that a democratic Bill Clinton-era policy?”
Now We Have to Worry About Feelings
Another had an interesting perspective, posting, “We will get around to getting ready for war; we have to worry about feelings.”
Impacts of Discrimination
Also on Wednesday, Openly gay U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), along with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), re-introduced a bill that would establish “A commission to investigate the historic and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies on LGBTQ service members and veterans.”
“This commission would study the impact of these bigoted rules” barring LGBTQ troops from serving “and forge a more welcoming future in the military and at the VA,” said Takano.
Feds to Offer an Apology
The commission’s responsibilities would include investigating the lasting psychological, financial, and professional impacts of policies, including “don’t ask, don’t tell” that prevented LGBTQ people from serving openly in the military and recommending “appropriate ways” to educate the public about “institutionalized and government-sanctioned discrimination.”
The group would also be required to issue a report detailing how the federal government “may offer an apology” to LGBTQ veterans
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Niyazz. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.