Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo Friday signed legislation in that state promising veterans' benefits for LGBTQ service members discharged for their sexual orientation.
The new law establishes a process for veterans kicked out of the military for being queer to have their discharge reclassified as honorable with the state, according to the Associated Press.
The legislation will make state and local benefits available to veterans booted from service before then-President Barack Obama repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.
DADT had been instituted under President Bill Clinton in an effort to allow gay and lesbian troops to continue to serve if they did not reveal their sexuality, but led to superiors seeking ways to out soldiers. Before DADT, gays and lesbians were not allowed to serve in the military at all. Some estimate as many as 100,000 veterans were dishonorably discharged from the service for being gay between World War II and the end of DADT.
Rhode Island Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson, who sponsored the legislation, told the Warwick Post it was important to recognize the contributions of LGBTQ veterans.
“Today, gay members of the armed forces can serve proudly and openly since ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was repealed,” she said. “But that doesn’t absolve us of our duty and obligation to those who served with honor before then. Many gay service members who were unceremoniously shown the door have been denied benefits for decades."
"And it’s time to right that wrong," she continued.