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Lawmakers Push Fix For Ousted Gay Service Members’ Discharge Records

Jun 19, 2013
In The News

Rep. Mark Pocan aims to “close the book” on the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with new legislation to codify the way those discharged under the military’s ban on out gay service members are treated by the military.

WASHINGTON — Two Democratic lawmakers are set to introduce new legislation ensuring service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” are able to have their records changed to reflect the end of the military’s ban on out gay service members.

Rep. Mark Pocan, a first-term lawmaker from Wisconsin, told BuzzFeed Tuesday the bill “would provide the legal clarification, and close the book, on the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’” by codifying the process by which discharged service members can have their records reviewed and changed. Pocan and Rep. Charlie Rangel are currently seeking co-sponsors for the Restore Honor to Service Members Act and plan to formally introduce the bill in the near future.

The bill is partially based on a September 2011 memo by the undersecretary of defense that set standards and rules for the military’s implementation of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” For those service members affected by DADT and earlier policies, their service paperwork would reflect the changed policy. Pocan’s office also notes it would apply to those dismissed under policies prior to DADT, dating back to World War II.

From World War II to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011, approximately 114,000 service members were discharged because of their sexual orientation, Pocan’s office says.

“Specifically, it would put into law what is currently policy by the military, which is the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ However, without having it in law, it could change at some date in the future with a different administration. It provides for a very clear process and lays out the process for what it takes to be able to get your [discharge] status changed and adjusted,” Pocan said.

“Right now, you go to the discharge review, there’s a process. This lays out that process, but it lays out … exactly what the process is. Part of the problem right now is that it’s not as clear, so it’s a little bit varied, person to person, and it delays the process. So, we’ve got a very clear, simple process.”

The bill would change former members of the military’s discharge characterization to honorable, when there were no aggravating circumstances. The legislation would also require discharge paperwork to not include a service member’s sexual orientation as the reason for discharge.

Additionally, the bill would “repeal the language that makes sodomy illegal” in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Pocan said.