Saturday, April 1, 2023

Blumenthal Introduces Legislation To Create Commission On LGBTQ Servicemembers And Veterans

On June 25, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Veterans and Armed Services Committees, introduced the Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act. The legislation would establish a commission to investigate the significant and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies and practices on LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans, including the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and help foster a more welcoming and equitable environment in the military and VA in the future.

“The commission established by this legislation would be a first step in undoing the damage to our LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans done by harmful policies like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Blumenthal. “As we celebrate Pride Month, I’m proud to lead this bill in the Senate and ensure a more equitable future for all of our nation’s bravest.”

The Commission to Study the Stigmatization, Criminalization, and Ongoing Exclusion and Inequity for LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act, also known as the Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act,would establish a commission to learn the full extent of the harms caused by discriminatory policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Trans Military Ban, and make recommendations to Congress on rectifying the effects that discriminatory military and veteran’s affairs policies continue to have on servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The Commission created by the legislation would also help understand the full scope of protections for LGBTQ servicemembers today and make recommendations for government agencies, service providers, and the military services to follow to ensure equity for all Americans who wish to serve.

The legislation was introduced in the House in March by Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and co-Chair of the Equality Caucus, U.S. Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Anthony Brown (D-MD).

“For many generations, LGBTQ Americans have stepped up to serve our country in uniform, even when discriminatory policies prevented them from serving openly and when facing higher rates of harassment just for being who they are,” said Takano. “Many served in our military while hiding their identity, while others were discharged simply because they were LGBTQ. Our nation must reckon with the effects of discriminatory military policies and undo the damage that has been done. Establishing this commission would help Americans understand the effects of anti-LGBTQ military policies, provide a path forward to rectify the injustices, and help create a welcoming culture for LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans in the military and at VA. I’d like to thank Rep. Brown and Senator Blumenthal for their partnership on this important issue.”

The Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act is endorsed by a number of organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, Modern Military Association of America, Minority Veterans of America, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Too often LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans face discrimination, ostracization, and harassment as a result of inadequate and inequitable military policy and practice. The Commission to Study the Stigmatization, Criminalization, and Ongoing Exclusion and Inequity for LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act will be an important step forward to identify disparities in services and benefits, and provide recommendations to support servicemembers, veterans and their families moving forward. We thank Chairman Mark Takano, Rep. Anthony Brown, and Senator Blumenthal for their leadership to help ensure equity for all LGBTQ patriots who wish to proudly serve their nation,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David.

“As the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ military and veteran non-profit, the Modern Military Association of America fully supports and endorses this act. Discrimination, harassment and violence have plagued the LGBTQ+ military community for decades and a formal commission to study and understand the detrimental impacts of harmful policies and behaviors is long overdue,” said Jennifer Dane, Executive Director, Modern Military Association of America.

“As the country continues to come to grips with its history of systemic discrimination, MVA is grateful to see this Bill taking a deep dive into the inequity experienced by LGBTQ veterans and servicemembers every day. This legislation is a critical step forward towards ending disparities in equality and creating a just world for marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented service members and veterans. We look forward to championing its progress and hope Congress quickly passes it and delivers it to President Biden’s desk for signature in short order,” said Andy Blevins, Operations and Policy Director at the Minority Veterans of America.

“LGBTQ veterans who served their country with honor and distinction have for decades struggled against stigmatization, exclusion, and boundaries to accessing the benefits they have rightfully earned. The American Legion is proud to support the establishment of a commission to examine these inequities and highlight solutions to ensure all of our nations veterans are treated with the respect they deserve,” said James W. “Bill” Oxford, National Commander at the American Legion.

“LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans face barriers and challenges across different life domains. The VFW would like to thank Representative Takano, Representative Brown, and Senator Blumenthal for this legislation that will spark vital reports, conversations, recommendations, and action to benefit LGBTQ servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The Commission to Study the Stigmatization, Criminalization, and Ongoing Exclusion and Inequity for LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act will bring awareness to the discrimination and disparities that impacted the LBGTQ servicemembers and veterans through a commission that will provide recommendations to Congress, DOD, VA, and other agencies. The VFW fully supports this valuable and useful legislation,” said Tammy Bartlet, Associate Director, National Legislative Service at Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“PVA appreciates the efforts of Chairman Takano, Representative Brown, and Senator Blumenthal to establish a commission to review the needs and experiences of LGBTQ veterans and servicemembers as a way to ensure that they receive the benefits and health care that they have rightfully earned through their military service,” said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director of Government Relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America.

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