Wyden, Merkley Reintroduce Legislation to Restore Honor to Service Members Discharged Due to Sexual Orientation

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week reintroduced legislation that would 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.

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may be a thing of the past, but far too many Americans are still fighting to correct their military records and receive the benefits they’ve earned,” Wyden said. “Our bill would help correct this historical injustice, which is why Congress should pass it without delay.”

“Freedom is the ability to fully participate in American life. But even today the bell of freedom does not ring for LGBTQ service members who were discharged for no other reason than their sexual orientation,” Merkley said. “They served America to defend our freedom—it is way past time to restore their honor.”

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 result, many of these service members may not be able to access certain earned benefits or even claim veteran status. Other consequences of a negative discharge 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 are not aware that they can have their records corrected or initiate a review. This legislation would require the Department of Defense to proactively reach out to veterans who faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation about the Department’s process for correcting their records.

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act is supported by American Veterans for Equal Rights, VoteVets.org, OutServe-SLDN, and the Human Rights Campaign.

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawai‘i, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Ben Cardin, D-Md., Tom Carper, D-Del., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai‘i, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Katie Hill, D-Calif., along with more than 100 cosponsors, introduced the bill in the House as well.

A web version of this release is available here.