Target: Representatives Mark Pocan and Charlie Rangel and members of Congress
Goal: Reclassify LGBT veterans’ discharges from the military as honorable.
Representatives Mark Pocan and Charlie Rangel recently sponsored legislation that would correct the records of LGBT service members who were discharged simply because of their sexual orientation. Prior to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in 2011, approximately 114,000 service members received less than honorable discharges based solely on the fact that they are not heterosexual. The bill known as the “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” would expedite the process that allows LGBT service members to reclassify their discharges as honorable. It would also repeal the military’s longstanding ban on consensual sodomy.
The new bill is much more than a symbolic gesture. A dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony in many states, making it impossible for these service members to vote. This classification also makes it incredibly difficult to secure a civilian job and prohibits them from reenlisting. Depending on the state, service members with a dishonorable or less than honorable discharge are also barred from receiving unemployment benefits and participating in the GI Bill. They are also unable to receive veteran benefits, including health care, VA disability, and ceremonial burial rights.
Thousands of American veterans who were discharged for no other reason than their sexual orientation are essentially being punished for their service to our country. As Representative Pocan explains, “Our legislation ensures that gay veterans who selflessly served our country no longer live with tarnished records that prohibit them from receiving the recognition, benefits and honors they deserve.” Sign the petition below to tell Congress that equality and honor must be restored to LGBT veterans by passing this legislation.
Dear Representatives Mark Pocan, Charlie Rangel, and members of Congress,
Americans generally hold their nation’s service members in high esteem. We call them heroes and honor their selflessness and courage during national holidays, ceremonies, speeches, and parades. Current U.S. laws and lack of protective policies, however, often fail in putting those feelings into practice. Our country has failed in honoring thousands of veterans’ service due to unfair classification of their discharge from the military.
Before the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was repealed in 2011, an estimated 114,000 service members received less than honorable discharges for no other reason than their sexual orientation. These men and women who have served their country are treated as felons in many states, unable to vote, find civilian employment, or reenlist. In many states, service members with a dishonorable or less than honorable discharge cannot receive unemployment benefits or participate in the GI Bill. Despite having earned these privileges, they are also unable to receive veteran benefits, including health care and VA disability. They are even refused honor in death, unable to qualify for ceremonial burial rights.
Thousands of American veterans who were discharged solely based on their sexual orientation are essentially being punished for their service to our country. We are joining Representatives Pocan and Rangel in their call for an end to this unfair and discriminatory practice. We demand that Congress pass the Restore Honor to Service Members Act to restore honor to LGBT veterans military service.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: butchinson via Flickr