WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense is launching a new outreach campaign for LGBTQ+ veterans who were discharged for their sexual orientation.
After years of waiting, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks offered up the words thousands of LGBTQ+ veterans have been waiting to hear: an acknowledgment of injustice. She then announced the steps the DOD will take to help LGBTQ+ veterans denied honorable discharges.
“Today, we are announcing that the DOD will, for the first time, begin proactively reviewing the military records of veterans discharged because of their sexual orientation,” Hicks said in a news conference.
This announcement comes after a 9-month CBS News investigation that documented the impact of a less than honorable discharge, from the emotional consequences of having an “other than honorable on their DD-214 form to the practical ones.
“It hurt because my country’s telling me I’m not good enough to serve because of who I love, not because of anything else, just because of who I love,” former service member Sherrill Farrell told CBS News.
“I can’t be a police officer like I wanted because of my DD-214, yeah. They messed up my life,” Elaine Rodriguez, another former service member, told CBS News.
Leon Panetta was the defense secretary who oversaw the repeal 12 years ago. He said he regretted focusing too much on the future at the time and not correcting the harms of the past. The announcement marks the first step in doing just that.
The Justice for LGBTQ Veterans legal team sent the following email statement to Action News Jax:
“We welcome the news that the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to take steps to facilitate easier access to corrective relief for service members who were wrongfully discharged based on their sexual orientation and suffered from DOD’s failure to grant them Honorable discharges or remove language referring to sexual orientation from their discharge paperwork. As noted in our complaint against DOD, the continued denial of justice to these service members not only perpetuates a harmful legacy of discrimination but also violates their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. While we appreciate DOD’s statement, much work lies ahead. Until every veteran discharged under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and its predecessor policies receives the long-delayed justice they deserve, we remain committed to advocating for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ veterans who have been affected by this historical injustice.”
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