Washington, DC—Yesterday, United States Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) joined by United States Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce the Restore Honor to Service Members Act. This legislation is being introduced to help service members discharged for no other reason than their sexual orientation correct their military record to reflect their honorable service.
More specifically this legislation accomplishes several key items. It codifies the current Department of Defense policy as it pertains to service members discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to correct their records to reflect honorable service. It ensures that the appeals process remains open, available and accessible to service members. It simplifies the paperwork requirement necessary for discharge upgrades and for service members to initiate a review. Finally, this legislation opens discharge upgrades for the estimated 100,000 service members discharged for their sexual orientation prior to the implementation of don’t ask don’t tell. [pullquote]Finally it allows the estimated 100,000 service members who were discharged for their sexual orientation prior to the implementation of don’t ask don’t tell to seek upgrades that have been unattainable to them.[/pullquote]
Matt Thorn, Interim Executive Director for OutServe-SLDN issued the following statement with the introduction of the legislation:
“OutServe-SLDN is very pleased to publicly support the Restore Honor to Service Members Act. I applaud U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Kirsten Gillibrand along with Representative Charlie Rangel on being the lead sponsors of this bill. I particularly thank and praise Representative Mark Pocan on initiating this legislation and working with OutServe-SLDN. As a member of the LGBT Caucus, Congressman Pocan continues to be one of our staunchest supporters for LGBT service members and veterans in the U.S. Congress.
The Restore Honor to Service Members Act is needed for our gay and lesbian service members. It codifies the procedures and processes already taking place at the Department of Defense. It simplifies the paperwork process which at the moment is lengthy, time consuming and arduous. Finally it allows the estimated 100,000 service members who were discharged for their sexual orientation prior to the implementation of don’t ask don’t tell to seek upgrades that have been unattainable to them. [pullquote]For far too long our gay and lesbian service members were denied the ability to openly serve in the strongest, mightiest force in the world. Though we achieved victory with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, this is an opportunity to continue to do right by them.[/pullquote]
With this bill we continue to move in the right direction for our LGBT service members. This is how Congress needs to address issues through pragmatic, sensible legislation that lifts communities not divide them. We are not looking at reinventing the wheel or changing the Department of Defense’s structure on this issue. We are simply strengthening what exists and making it work efficiently and unequivocally for all gay and lesbian service members who were discharged in response to their sexual orientation.
For far too long our gay and lesbian service members were denied the ability to openly serve in the strongest, mightiest force in the world. Though we achieved victory with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, this is an opportunity to continue to do right by them. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act will lift the anxiety, frustrations and time that service members have unfortunately become accustomed to in attempting to acquire their discharge upgrades. It will breathe energy into the countless service members that we hear from who want upgrades but cannot acquire them because they were discharged prior to 1994.
I urge the leadership in both chambers, Speaker of the House of Representative John Boehner and United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the respective committees chairs, Representative Mac Thornberry and Senator John McCain, to allow this legislation its day in committee and for a vote on the floor.
We believe that there will be strong bipartisan support for this measure and OutServe-SLDN will do all in its capacity to urge representatives in both chambers to sign on to this legislation and move it forward.”
OutServe-SLDN (OS-SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America’s military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. With more than fifty chapters and 60,000 subscribers around the world, OS-SLDN supports a professional network of LGBT military personnel and strives to create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. OS-SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. For more information, visit www.outserve-sldn.org.
[From a News Release]