Approximately 100,000 LGBTQ+ veterans -- American patriots -- faced discharge due to the military’s broad anti-LGBTQ+ policies.
Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, commemorates the 10th anniversary of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), the discriminatory law that stood for 17 years and banned lesbian, gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the U.S. military. The 2011 repeal of DADT followed a hard-fought battle during which HRC led a coalition of members, supporters, dozens of elected officials, 70+ organizations, and 20,000 pro-repeal veterans in building a national movement to formally end the policy.
HRC worked closely on the repeal of the law with Hill champions, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Kyrsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
HRC mobilized its forces in the lead-up to the end of the indefensible “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. HRC placed 27 staff members on the ground to coordinate grassroots efforts and sent 19 million emails to HRC members and supporters to generate an unprecedented 625,000 emails and 50,000 hand-written letters to members of Congress. Additionally, HRC held hundreds of events that concluded with a Veterans Lobby Day that featured powerful testimony from coalition members and hundreds of lesbian, gay and straight veterans urging the end to the military’s prohibition on LGBTQ+ troops.
HRC’s tireless work helped to end DADT, but the war is not over. Approximately 100,000 LGBTQ+ veterans faced discharge due to the military’s broad anti-LGBTQ+ policies. For these American heroes, the impact of these discriminatory policies still reverberates.
Decades of systemic anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination within the military left veterans who faced discharge for who they loved or who they were without access to education, housing, and healthcare benefits they earned. While many of these harmful policies have been retired, their hurtful legacy remains. The SERVE (Securing the Rights our Veterans Earned) Act — reintroduced earlier this month by Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH), alongside Reps. Mike Levin (D-CA), Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY), Anthony Brown (D-MD), and Jackie Speier (D-CA) — takes important steps to ensure LGBTQ+ veterans who received an Other Than Honorable (OTH) or Entry-Level Separation (ELS) discharge solely due to their sexual orientation or gender identity are afforded the VA benefits they rightfully earned.
Today, nearly 6.1 percent of U.S. military personnel self-identify as LGBTQ+. HRC will continue to stand with these service members and veterans in their fight for equal treatment to ensure their rights are protected, their safety is guaranteed, and their service is honored.
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