Democratic representatives Charlie
Rangel of New York and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin on Wednesday announced
that they will sponsor a bill which seeks to correct the records of
some gay veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation.
The Restore Honor to Service Members
Act would ensure gay and lesbian service members who were discharged
for no other reason than their sexual orientation have their records
upgraded to reflect their honorable service.
Under the policy “Don't Ask, Don't
Tell” signed into law by President Bill Clinton, gay troops were
not allowed to serve openly. The policy ended in 2011.
Approximately 114,000 service members
since World War II were discharged because of their sexual
orientation, according to figures released by Pocan's office.
“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,” said Pocan, a co-chair of the
Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.
According to the congressmen, a
dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony in many states, and can
lead to service members being 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
Veterans discharged prior to the 1993
implementation of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” in particular were
likely to receive discharges that were classified as other than
honorable or dishonorable.