07.24.15

Peters Backs Bill to Upgrade Record of Servicemembers Discharged Due to Sexual Orientation

Legislation Would Help Recognize Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers for Honorable Military Service

 

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) announced today that he is cosponsoring the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, bicameral legislation that will help servicemembers who were discharged solely because of their sexual orientation upgrade their military records to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned. U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) introduced the bill earlier this month.

“America’s brave men and women in uniform who risked their lives to defend our freedom should not have to bear the scars of institutionalized discrimination because of who they love,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “While we continue to make great strides towards full equality, failing to right this wrong is an insult to the honor and dignity of our nation’s heroes who were unjustly discharged. Sexual orientation should never impact the value of one’s military service, and I’m proud to support this bill to help gay and lesbian veterans upgrade their records and secure the recognition and benefits they earned through their service.”

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 servicemembers may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits that they earned and may not be able to claim veteran status. A negative discharge can also prevent some veterans from voting or make it more difficult to acquire civilian employment.

The bill would require the review boards of the military services to establish a timely, consistent, and transparent process for reviewing the records of servicemembers who were discharged solely because of their sexual orientation. It would also simplify the paperwork requirement necessary for servicemembers to initiate a review in an effort to streamline the burdensome process for corrective action, placing the responsibility on the Department of Defense to find and produce relevant documents.

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.

Peters has been an advocate for equal rights in Congress, strongly supporting the successful effort to repeal the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

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