Saturday, September 23, 2023

Reps. Takano, Jacobs, and Sen. Blumenthal Reintroduce Legislation to Create Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers, Veterans, and Members of the Uniformed Services


Reps. Takano, Jacobs, and Sen. Blumenthal Reintroduce Legislation to Create Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers, Veterans, and Members of the Uniformed Services

Washington, D.C. – Today, on the 12th anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Representative Mark Takano (CA-39), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Co-Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, Representative Sara Jacobs (CA-51), and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced the Commission?on Equity and Reconciliation in the Uniformed Services Act, a bill establishing a commission to investigate the historic and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies on LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans.

Approximately 114,000 servicemembers were discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation between WWII and 2011, while an estimated 870,000 LGBTQ servicemembers have been impacted by hostility, harassment, assault, and law enforcement targeting due to the military policies in place.Still today, many veterans who were discharged on discriminatory grounds are unable to access their benefits, and those still serving face inconsistent protections that make them vulnerable to harassment and put their careers at risk.

“For decades, Americans made impossible choices of hiding their identity in order to serve our country,” said Representative Mark Takano. “We are reintroducing this legislation on the anniversary of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – a reminder that the wounds of our nation’s history of discrimination against LGBTQ people are still fresh and require remedy. This commission would study the impact of these bigoted rules and forge a more welcoming future in the military and at VA.”

“No one should face discrimination, harassment, professional setbacks or violence because of their identity – but that’s been the reality for too many LGBTQ+ service members and veterans,” said Representative Sara Jacobs. “Our country has never made amends for official discriminatory policies like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the transgender military ban – and that failure still haunts today’s service members and veterans. That’s why I’m so proud to co-lead this bicameral legislation that will right these historic wrongs, investigate the past and present impact of anti-LGBTQ+ policies, and help us move forward to build and sustain a diverse, inclusive, strong, and welcoming military.”

“For too long, LGBTQ+ servicemembers have been the target of discriminatory policies– resulting in harassment, involuntary discharge, and unreasonable barriers preventing them from accessing their rightly-earned benefits,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “This commission would be an important step to understand the full scope of the harms caused by policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to ensure a more equitable future for all who serve our country in uniform.”

There are 10 original cosponsors of the bill in the House, with Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-WA)co-sponsoring in the Senate.

There are currently 250,000 active-duty LGBTQ servicemembers and over 1.5 million LGBTQ veterans receiving healthcare from VA, but there continues to be a pervasive lack of data collection on LGBTQ servicemember and veteran populations and an absence of education on the LGBTQ community who serve in uniform. 

It should not be so difficult for all servicemembers to abide by the uncompromising code of integrity to themselves, their families, and their units when they join the United States Uniformed Services. We must fulfill our promise to honor and respect those who have served by removing the barriers between them and the benefits they have earned through their service, regardless of who they love or how they identify. 

This legislation is supported by the Modern Military Association of America, Equality California, Minority Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Human Rights Campaign, and San Diego Pride-Military Department. View statements from endorsing organizations here

A one-pager on the bill can be found here. Bill text can be found here.