Mark Pocan, an out US House representative from the Midwestern state Wisconsin, joined Charlie Rangel, a representative from New York, to introduce a bill that would assist gay veterans discharged from the military because of their sexuality.
The legislation, called the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, would put into law concrete procedures for those kicked out of the military because they were gay to have a review of their records to change the discharge from 'dishonorable' to 'honorable.'
Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, service members, if they were revealed as LGBT to their superiors, could be removed from service with a dishonorable discharge.
As Representative Pocan explained, in the statement announcing the bill, 'in many states a dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony.'
Even veterans with the less severe 'general discharge' on their records 'can encounter...difficulties acquiring civilian employment.'
'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 release said.
'For too long, tens of thousands of men and women who selflessly risked their lives for our country have lived with the dishonorable records that came from the unjust “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy,' Pocan said.
'But the support we have received for our legislation demonstrates the country’s strong desire to close the book on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and rightfully recognize the service of all of our courageous service members,' he continued.
Representative Rangel, a Korean War veteran, considers the bill a closing chapter of DADT repeal.
'Now is the time to finish the job and ensure that all those who served honorably are recognized for their honorable service regardless of their sexual orientation,' Rangel said.
Danny Ingram, president of American Veterans For Equal Rights, participated in a conference call explaining the bill and its implications. He noted it would help the Defense Department in the review process of veterans.
'The current process of discharge upgrades is extremely cumbersome, and bureaucratic, and can take over a decade in many cases,' Ingram said.
Presently the proposed law has 100 Democratic and Republican cosponsors.