Representatives Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) announced Wednsday that they will sponsor a bill to correct the records of gay and lesbian service members who received less-than-honorable discharges purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.
An estimated 114,000 members of the U.S. Armed Services were kicked out for being gay or lesbian, prior to the 2011 repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Many who served with distinction received other-than-honorable or general discharges — instead of the honorable discharges they’d have otherwise received — for no reason other than their sexual orientation.
According to Rangel and Pocan, some gay and lesbian former service members are blocked from voting, unemployment benefits, participating in the GI Bill and receiving veteran benefits such as health care, VA disability, and ceremonial burial rights at military cemeteries, as a result of their unfavorable discharge status.
Pocan told the Washington Blade he expects the bill to be filed next week with about co-sponsors.
Rangel, serving his 22nd term in Congresss, received both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for Valor for his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Pocan, who began his first term in January, is one of six openly LGBT people in the 113th Congress.