Bill would let gay vets clear service records

Bill would let gay vets clear service records
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A group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday proposed legislation that would give troops that were kicked out of the armed forces solely because of their sexual orientation the chance to clear their record.

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act, introduced by Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMaloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee She Should Run launches initiative to expand number of women in political process MORE (N.Y.) and Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanGOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' House progressives to push for floor amendments on Pelosi drug price bill How Trump and Pelosi went from bad to worse MORE (Wis.) and Charles Rangel (N.Y.), was originally proposed in the last Congress and referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee but did not receive a vote.

"From the repeal of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' to the Supreme Court's historic ruling on marriage equality, we have made great strides in the fight to end discrimination. But there is still more work to be done to protect and promote full equality and ensure we help right our past wrongs," Schatz said in a statement.

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"Today, thousands of brave men and women who served our country are still denied the benefits and honorable service record they deserve," he added. "It's long past time we honor our commitment to all our service members and finally restore the dignity of gay and lesbian veterans who were unjustly discharged from our military."

An estimated 100,000 service members have been discharged from the military based on their sexual orientation. They may have left with discharge statuses of "other than honorable," "general discharge" or "dishonorable," depending on their circumstances. 

As a result, many of them may be disqualified from certain benefits and may not be able to claim veteran status.  Other consequences include preventing some veterans from voting or making it more difficult for them to obtain civilian employment. 

"As a Korean War veteran, I understand how much this recognition means for our Service Members who faced discrimination. It is about time we pay proper tribute to the veterans who deserve to be honored for their valiant service to our country. Seeking redress for them is not only the right thing to do but also will correct historical injustice,"  Rangel said.

The bill has received the backing from several top interest groups, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VoteVets.org and the Human Rights Campaign.

The proposed measure also boasts around 20 co-sponsors in the Senate and 97 in the House.