Joe Biden reversed Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military earlier this year, allowing the entire LGBTQ community to serve for the first time.
Anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. military goes as far back as 1778 when Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin was convicted at court-martial on charges of sodomy and perjury. The military would go on to make sodomy a crime in 1920 and worthy of dishonorable discharge.
In 1949 the Department of Defense standardized its anti-LGBT regulations across the military, declaring: "Homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Forces in any capacity, and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces is mandatory."
This continued until 1993 when restrictions were slightly eased through the vague "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy set forth by the Clinton administration. Barack Obama improved on this policy by allowing LGBT people to serve openly in the military in 2011.
"There's about 114,000 veterans that were discharged either 'other than honorably' or 'dishonorably,' because of just simply being LGB and trying to serve in the military under discriminatory policies," Jennifer Dane of the Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) said according to Marketplace.
These unfair discharges have resulted in countless veterans losing access to VA health care and benefits such as education, burial, and memorial services, and home loans.
Democratic Representative Chris Pappas of New Hampshire has reintroduced legislation that would guarantee and protect Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits for LGBTQ veterans discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pappas is openly gay and serves on the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus.
The SERVE Act (Securing the Rights our Veterans Earned) would reinstate VA benefits for those discharged as far back as World War II and covers those impacted by DADT and Trump's recent, short-lived transgender ban.
"A double standard continues to persist for LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who suffered from government-sponsored discriminatory policies simply because of who they are," Pappas said in a statement. "As we near the tenth anniversary of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' it's long past time that these veterans are afforded the benefits they've rightfully earned defending our country."
"Those who have courageously served our nation in uniform should never have to worry about receiving the benefits to which they're entitled for their service," said David Stacy, Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director. "No LGBTQ veteran who has been discharged based on their sexual orientation or gender identity should be denied the VA benefits they deserve."
The tens of thousands of people who've been discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation put their lives on the line to serve their country. They should be repaid for their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice by being given what they were promised.
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