January 31, 2014

Wyden Cosponsors Bill to Provide Justice to Servicemembers Discharged Over Sexual Orientation

WASHINGTON – More than two years after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military records of many servicemembers forced out of service due to their sexual orientation do not reflect an honorable discharge.  After serving their country, these folks now carry a mark on their permanent record and are often unable to access veterans benefits they would otherwise receive.  In the most extreme cases, they are even legally barred from calling themselves a veteran.  

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce the Restore Honor to Service Members Act in order to correct the military records of those discharged solely for the sexual orientation. 

“I was proud to join my colleagues to send Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to the dustbin of history, but its harmful impact is still felt by those who were discharged for no reason other than their sexual orientation,” Wyden said. “This bill will simply codify what so many of us have been saying for so long: that honorable military service has nothing to do with somebody’s sexual orientation and everything to do with how they performed their job.”

Since the 1940s it is estimated that more than 100,000 Americans have been discharged with statuses other than honorable because of their sexual orientation. The nature of a service member’s discharge status has a lasting impact on the type of veterans benefits they can receive once they separate from the service. For the many who received dishonorable discharges due to sexual orientation, they are not eligible for those benefits.

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act will simplify the process for veterans who were discharged under these circumstances to have their records reviewed and their statuses changed. This will provide them with all the benefits and privileges associated with honorable service.

Wyden voted against the original Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell legislation as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993. He voted for its repeal 17 years later.