Friday, January 31, 2014

Restoring Honor To Gay Vets

U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02) & Charlie Rangel (NY-13), lead sponsors of the bipartisan “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” commended the introduction of this bill in the U.S. Senate by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) & Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” which Pocan & Rangel introduced in the House in July, would instill the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” into law & ensure that gay & lesbian veterans who were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation receive the honor & recognition they deserve. Pocan & Rangel stated, “We applaud Senators Schatz & Gillibrand for introducing the “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” in the Senate & standing up for our gay & lesbian veterans. This bill would close the book on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” & provide tens of thousands of gay veterans, who selflessly risked their lives for our nation. Our bill already has the support of more than 140 House members & we look forward to working with Senators Schatz & Gillibrand to ensure it can pass Congress and get to the President’s desk.” Since World War II to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2011, approximately 114,000 service members were discharged because of their sexual orientation. Every form of discharge previously given out prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” carries with it consequences that can follow a service member for his or her entire life. While the characterization of the discharges varied, many members received discharges that were classified as "other than honorable" or "dishonorable", particularly prior to the implementation of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in 1993. In many states a dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony & service members receiving a "general discharge", a lesser offense, can encounter grave difficulties acquiring civilian employment. All were barred from reenlisting in the military. Depending on the discharge received, service members may also be blocked from voting, unemployment benefits, participating in the GI Bill or receiving veteran benefits such as health care, VA disability & ceremonial burial rights at military cemeteries.
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