What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 22, 2013

114,000. There were 114,000 Of Them.

A long long time ago, at one of my old jobs, I knew an attorney who, in the course of our office chit-chats, told me of the greatest regret of his life - it was one of his old jobs he had while he was serving in the military.  Our chats took place more than a decade ago and what he was discussing what took place a few decades before that.  Old memories of mine of older memories of his.

He told me that he was for a time attached to military intelligence but instead of finding spies he told me his job was "to find the gays."

If I recall correctly, he said that what they did was to stake out what they knew to be the gay bars in the DC area and to take note of the men and women entering them.  If they recognized someone from the military then the process would start to quietly drum them out of the service.

That's what he said was the biggest shame of his life.  He said he was following orders and that at the time the military thought that being gay was a security threat (since it could have been the reason for blackmail) and so on.  But he was still ashamed of his actions.

I was reminded of this when I read this:
Almost two years since the landmark repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” tens of thousands of gay veterans who served this country with honor and dignity possess records that remain blemished with a range of discharges because of their sexuality. To support the Department of Defense’s efforts to rectify this injustice, U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) today proposed legislation, the “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” that 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.

Since World War II to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2011, approximately 114,000 service members were discharged because of their sexual orientation.
I didn't realize the number was that high, though I am not surprised that it is.

From the press release:
The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” is about more than upgrading a piece of paper. Every form of discharge previously given out prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” carries with it consequences that can follow a service member for his or her entire life. While the character of discharge varied, many members received discharges that were classified as other than honorable or dishonorable, particularly prior to the implementation of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in 1993. In many states, a dishonorable discharge is treated as a felony, and service members receiving a general discharge, a lesser offense, can encounter grave difficulties acquiring civilian employment. All were barred from reenlisting in the military. 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 “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” turns the current broad review policy outlined in a memo from the Under Secretary of Defense into clear and settled law. It ensures all services members who were previously discharged because of their sexual orientation receive a timely, consistent and transparent review of their records so that gay veterans who served honorably have their records rightfully upgraded to honorable. It also removes any indication of a service member’s sexual orientation from the record, so they are not automatically “outed” to those accessing their record and protects against future discrimination by decriminalizing consensual relations between same sex couples, bringing military law in line with Supreme Court rulings.
Yea, it's time to fix this shameful chapter of our nation's history as well.

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