Pocan & Rangel Applaud Senate Introduction of Restore Honor to Service Members Act
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Charlie Rangel (NY-13), lead sponsors of the bipartisan “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” today applauded the introduction of this bill in the U.S. Senate by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” which Pocan and Rangel introduced in the House in July, would instill the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” into law and ensure that gay and lesbian veterans who were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation receive the honor and recognition they deserve. A statement from Pocan and Rangel is below:
“We applaud Senators Schatz and Gillibrand for introducing the “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” in the Senate and standing up for our gay and lesbian veterans. This bill would close the book on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and provide tens of thousands of gay veterans, who selflessly risked their lives for our nation. Our bill already has the support of more than 140 House members, and we look forward to working with Senators Schatz and Gillibrand to ensure it can pass Congress and get to the President’s desk.”
The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” is about more than upgrading a piece of paper. Since 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. Every form of discharge previously given out prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” carries with it consequences that can follow a service member for his or her entire life. While the characterization of the discharges varied, many members received discharges that were classified as"other than honorable" or "dishonorable", particularly prior to the implementation of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in 1993. In many states, a dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony, and service members receiving a "general discharge", a lesser offense, can encounter grave difficulties acquiring civilian employment. All were barred from reenlisting in the military. Depending on the discharge received, service members may also be blocked from voting, unemployment benefits, participating in the GI Bill or receiving veteran benefits such as health care, VA disability, and ceremonial burial rights at military cemeteries.
The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” turns the current broad review policy outlined in a memo from the Under Secretary of Defense into clear and settled law. It ensures all services members who were previously discharged because of their sexual orientation receive a timely, consistent and transparent review of their records so that gay veterans who served honorably have their records rightfully upgraded to honorable.