Schatz bill to help dismissed gay service members

LIHUE — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz introduced legislation that would retroactively change the service records of gay and lesbian members of the Armed Forces who were dismissed from the military due to their sexual orientation to instead reflect their honorable service to the country.

“We have made great strides in the fight to end discrimination. But there is still more work to be done to protect and promote full equality and ensure we help right our past wrongs,” Schatz said in a written statement. “It’s long past time we honor our commitment to all our service members and finally restore the dignity of gay and lesbian veterans who were unjustly discharged from our military.”

The goal of the proposed Restore Honor to Service Members Act is to help service members who were discharged from the military solely due to their sexual orientation obtain an honorable discharge and reinstate any benefits they earned that they may have been denied due to discrimination.

According to an estimate provided by Schatz, more than 100,000 Americans have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation, but instead of being given an honorable discharge, they left with the status of “other than honorable,” “general discharge,” or “dishonorable,” depending on the circumstances. As a consequence of being denied an honorable discharge, many veterans may have been disqualified from accessing certain benefits that they earned, and they may have had more difficulty acquiring civilian employment, Schatz said.

If enacted, a discharge based solely on sexual orientation is sufficient for a veteran to seek a review of their record.

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