June 26, 2019

Harris, Feinstein, Colleagues Reintroduce Legislation to Restore Honor to Service Members Discharged Due to Sexual Orientation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Americans celebrate LGBT Pride Month, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and 23 of their colleagues in reintroducing the Restore Honor to Service Members Act. The legislation will correct the military records of service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned.

“All of our nation’s service members are entitled to the honor and benefits they earn, regardless of who they are or who they love,” said Senator Harris. “I’m proud to co-sponsor the Restore Honor to Service Members Act. These brave men and women have sacrificed so much for our country and Congress should fix the mistakes of the past.”

Since World War II, more than 100,000 Americans are estimated to have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Those forced out of the military may have left with discharge statuses of “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable,” depending on the circumstances. As a consequence, many of these service members may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits that they earned and are entitled to, and may not be able to claim veteran status. The consequences of a negative discharge also include preventing some veterans from voting or making it more difficult for them to acquire civilian employment.

Many veterans who were affected by discriminatory policies such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell do not know that they can have their records corrected or initiate a review. This legislation would require the Department of Defense to reach out to veterans who faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation about the Department’s process for correcting their records.

The legislation is supported by American Veterans for Equal Rights, VoteVets.rog, OutServe-SLDN, and the Human Rights Campaign.

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act is also cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).