U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), who is openly gay, introduced legislation today that would erase “dishonorable” from the records of thousands of discharged gay and lesbian soldiers.
The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” would affect nearly 114,000 service members that were discharged for their sexual orientation before the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” For this group, the stigma of “dishonorable” not only decreases employment opportunities, but also prevents access to veteran benefits like health care, and disability, as well as the right to reenlist, or be buried in a military cemetery.
Pocan introduced the act along with Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and 100 bipartisan cosponsors.
“For too long, tens of thousands of men and women who selflessly risked their lives for our country have lived with the dishonorable records that came from the unjust ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. “But the support we have received for our legislation demonstrates the country’s strong desire to close the book on ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and rightfully recognize the service of all of our courageous service members. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move forward with this effort and restore honor to all of our brave veterans.”
The act, which would also remove mention of sexual orientation from a soldier’s discharge record, was applauded by representatives from LGBT rights groups, including Allison Herwitt, Legislative Director of Human Rights Campaign, who called it “a tremendous first step in achieving equality in our nation’s Armed Forces.”
“It is important that we continue to address the discrimination that LGBT veterans face by updating their service records to reflect the reality of their service” said Herwitt. “We are thankful that Reps. Pocan and Rangel have addressed this issue with the ‘Restore Honor to Service Members Act.’"