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Defense directives in the U.S. government began discriminating against LGB service members in 1950 under President Truman. For 61 years, LGB members of the military had been banned from serving their country simply because of their sexual orientation. One law in particular, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issued in 1993 by President Clinton, is responsible for the discharge of over 14,500 service members.

"Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed on September 20th, 2011 making it so LGB service members could no longer be discharged because of their sexual orientation.

However, this policy does not address the issues facing transgender service members, or those who wish to enlist. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” only addresses lesbians, gays, and bisexuals; the repeal also only includes these groups. PFLAG is dedicated to helping end discrimination for all service members, and works together with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to bring an end to full LGBT discrimination in our military.

 

Learn More about LGBT military issues:

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“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal - The Facts

Previous Legislation: The Military Readiness Enhancement Act

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) introduced The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 (S. 3065) on March 3, 2010 as a way to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. However, this bill failed to advance.

Current Legislation: The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010

Introduced as H.R. 2965 and sponsored by Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA), this bill repeals the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. This bill was signed by President Obama into law on July 21, 2011 and accepted by the Pentagon on July 22, 2011.

 

Key Points:

  • Even though the law was signed in July, September 20th, 2011 marked the official end of DADT. After that date, LGB service members were free to serve openly in the military.

 

  • The bill does not contain a non-discrimination policy for LGB members in the military.

 

  • The bill does not grant spousal benefits or marriage recognition for LGB members and their partners. This is due to the Defense of Marriage Act which does not allow for same-sex marriages to be federally recognized.

 

  • Transgender service members are not included in this bill. PFLAG National supports the work of our community partners to encourage the Department of Defense to eliminate transgender status and gender identity disorder diagnosis as automatic disqualifications from military service and ensure that medical fitness standards treat transgender service members equally with all other service members. For more information, please see: How does DADT affect Transgender service members?

 

Federal Legislation

As part of our effort to end discrimination for all LGBT service members, we have prioritized a series of bills that can aid this effort.

 

Voices for Veterans Act

Bill Number

This bill was introduced by Rep. Susan K. DelBene (D-WA) as H.R.915 on February 12, 2015. This bill currently has 83 cosponsors.

 

What this Bill Will Do

This bill will expand the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include LGBT veterans.

 

What You Need to Ask For

Ask your representatives to support and cosponsor this bill if they have not yet done so, especially if they are part of the House Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

 

PFLAG Talking Points

  • LGBT veterans deserve to be acknowledged and have their voices heard. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still relatively recent, and this bill would help further end the forced silence LGBT veterans have been subject to for decades and give them a platform to speak about issues affecting them.

 

  • Transgender people are still unable to serve in the military. If a space is designated for LGBT veterans on an advisory committee, it may be easier to advocate for transgender inclusion.

 

  • The presence of transgender service members is acknowledged. Even though transgender service is still prohibited, this bill’s language recognizes that transgender people are serving anyway. It also asserts that those service members deserve a voice.

 

Important Notes

  • This bill has 83 cosponsors in the House.

 

  • This bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

 

  • There is no current version of this bill from the Senate.

 

Restore Honor to Service Members Act

Bill Number

This bill was introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) as H.R.3068  on July 15, 2015. This bill currently has 98 cosponsors.

What this Bill Will Do

This bill will help service members discharged for no other reason than their sexual orientation correct their military record to reflect their honorable service. The bill would codify the current Department of Defense policy as it pertains to service members discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to correct their records to reflect honorable service. It ensures that the appeals process remains open, available and accessible to service members. This legislation would open discharge upgrades for the estimated 100,000 service members discharged for their sexual orientation prior to the implementation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

What You Need to Ask For

Ask your representatives to support and cosponsor this bill if they have not yet done so, especially if they are part of the House Committee on Armed Services.

PFLAG Talking Points

  • LGBT veterans deserve to be acknowledged and have their voices heard. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still relatively recent, and this bill would help further end the forced silence LGBT veterans have been subject to for decades and give them a platform to speak about issues affecting them.

 

  • LGB veterans discharged under DADT deserve compensation. This bill would correct service member records to reflect honorable service for the approximately 100,000 members who were discharged dishonorably under DADT.

 

  • Transgender people are still unable to serve in the military. This bill does not address transgender service members who have been discharged and still cannot openly serve in the armed forces.

 

Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act

Bill Number

This bill was reintroduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) as S.270 on January 27, 2015. This bill currently has 16 cosponsors.

 

What this Bill Will Do

This bill redefines “surviving spouse” to include all legally married spouses at the time of a veteran’s death rather than only opposite-sex spouses for the purposes of veterans benefits provisions. This new definition includes all legally married same-sex couples regardless of place of residence.

 

What You Need to Ask For

Ask your senators and representatives to support and cosponsor this bill if they have not yet done so, especially if they are part of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Contact your representatives to explain to them the importance of having an identical bill in the House.

 

PFLAG Talking Points

  • LGBTQ people should not face the added burden of not receiving veterans benefits upon the death of their same-sex military spouse. This bill dispels one of the many worries same-sex military couples face.

 

  • LGBTQ servicemembers and their families deserve the full extent of benefits for their service. This bill ensures an LGBTQ servicemember’s service is just as valuable as a non-LGBTQ servicemembers.

 

  • All legal same-sex marriages should be recognized regardless of state of residence. This bill does not define “surviving spouse” based on state of residence, including all legally married same-sex couples.

 

Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act

Bill Number

This bill was reintroduced in the House as H.R.1598 by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Rep. Richard L. Hanna (R-NY), Rep. David W. Jolly (R-FL), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on March 25, 2015. As of publication this bill has 43 cosponsors.

What this Bill Will Do

The Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act amends sections of Title 38 of the US Code to give all LGBTQ veterans and their families access to their VA benefits regardless of their state of residence.

What you Need to Ask for

Ask your representatives to support this bill, especially if they serve on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. If they are not a cosponsor of the bill, ask them to support it by cosponsoring. If they are already a cosponsor, please thank them.

 

PFLAG Talking Points

  • LGBTQ servicemembers and their families deserve the full extent of benefits for their service. This bill ensures an LGBTQ servicemember’s service is just as valuable as a non-LGBTQ servicemember’s.

 

  • All legal same-sex marriages should be federally recognized regardless of state of residence. This bill ensures all LGBTQ veterans and their families receive benefits regardless of whether or not their marriage is recognized by their state of residence.


LGBTQ veterans and their families should not have to shoulder an extra burden when dealing with the VA. This bill removes a big worry for LGBTQ veterans and their families when they are dealing with the VA.

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