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November 01, 2015

Restore Honor to Servicemembers

The ABA is supporting legislation to ensure that American veterans who were discharged from the military due solely to their sexual orientation, but did not receive an “honorable” characterization of service, are provided an opportunity to request that their characterization be upgraded. The legislation also would ensure that any indication of sexual orientation will be removed from the records of servicemembers who received “honorable” discharges to lessen the possibility of a servicemember’s being discriminated against when he or she would otherwise be able to keep their sexual orientation private. While the 1993 statute commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was fully repealed two years ago to allow lesbian, gay and bisexual men and women to openly serve in the military, thousands of veterans are still experiencing the consequences of that policy and the even more oppressive policies before it. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) – who sponsored S. 1766 and H.R. 3068, the Restore Honor to Service Members Act − convened a Nov. 5 press conference with members of the LGBT Equality Caucus to urge passage of their legislation to help these veterans. The legislation, Schatz said, “would remove the mark of shame they carry, give access to benefits, and finally give them the respect and honor they rightly deserve.” The legislation, which has 109 cosponsors in the House and 37 cosponsors in the Senate, is supported by numerous veterans and human rights organizations. The ABA opposed enactment of DADT and supported the law’s repeal. In correspondence to the House Armed Services Committee during the 113th Congress, the ABA urged Congress “to take the final steps necessary to bring about an end to the unfortunate remnants of this misguided policy.”

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