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Blumenthal introduces legislation to correct LGBTQIA+ discrimination against veterans

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) with members of the military.
Molly Ingram
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) with members of the military.

New legislation in the United States Senate could begin to reverse dishonorable discharges U.S. veterans received for being LGBTQIA+.

More than 1.5 millions veterans identify as LGBTQIA+, and many of them struggle to access their benefits because they were dishonorably discharged for their sexuality.

The legislation, called The Commission on Equity and Reconciliation in the Uniformed Services Act, was introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). It would create a commission to investigate now repealed discriminatory policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the transgender military ban.

“This commission will study ways that the military can do better, and it must be better because LGBTQ+ individuals are brave, patriotic and valuable to our military,” Blumenthal said. “And we want to make sure there's no discrimination.”

Don’t Ask, Don't Tell was repealed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. The transgender military ban was repealed by President Joe Biden shortly after he took office in 2021.

Anthony DiLizia is an Army veteran that identifies as gay. He said his time in the military was difficult because of his sexuality, but that he had it better than the people who came before him.

“The fact that I was even able to come out in the first place, and the fact that I was able to navigate those challenges, really speaks to the sacrifices that were made by the LGBTQIA+ service members that came before myself,” DiLizia said.

“We owe it to those service members past and present to get this legislation passed. We owe it to them to shine a light on a very dark chapter of our military's history, so we may gain a better understanding of the impact of these discriminatory policies,” he added.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced on Sept. 20 that the department was reviewing less than honorable discharges issues to military members as a result of their sexuality.

But Blumenthal said that process could be lengthy if it’s left to the Defense Department alone. The commission, he said, could speed it up.

Blumenthal said he hopes the legislation will receive bipartisan support in the Senate.

Commission members would be appointed by the president of the United States.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.