As part of a broader plan for addressing veterans issues released today, Martin O’Malley called for clearing the military records of those who were dishonorably discharged from the armed forces due to their sexual orientation.
The Pentagon has a process in place for upgrading the status of those who were dishonorably discharged, but it is currently a slow-going application process that has sparked calls for legislation, which is currently sitting in the House and Senate. And while it may seem like a small, symbolic thing for those who aren’t in the military, discharge status matters. As the Washington Blade reported last year:
Although many service members were given an “honorable” discharge from the military if they were expelled because of their sexual orientation, others were given “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable” discharge. By having designation other than “honorable” on their papers, former troops may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits, such as GI bill tuition assistance and veterans’ health care, and may not be able to claim veteran status. In some cases, they may be prevented from voting or have difficulty acquiring civilian employment.
O’Malley, who has struggled to gain traction in the polls following Bernie Sanders’s rise as the alternative to Hillary Clinton in the primary, is now the first Democratic candidate to release a comprehensive plan for veterans.
This proposal puts Clinton in an uncomfortable position, to say the least. Over 13,000 people were discharged between 1993 and and 2011 for violating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which her husband signed into law. An estimated 114,000 people have been dishonorably discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation since World War II.
UPDATE: I missed this earlier, but Clinton has also called for upgrading these veterans’ statuses.
Clinton has recently defended DADT, along with the Defense of Marriage Act, as “defensive actions,” a claim that has been thoroughly debunked by extensive research into the White House’s deliberations over the issues at the time.
But at present, none of the Democratic candidates support the idea of DADT. All are in favor of LGBT people serving openly in the military. This being the case, there’s no good reason for Clinton (and Sanders) to not get on board with O’Malley’s proposal. The people kicked out of the military due to their sexual orientation were immorally discharged; it makes no sense for the military to continue to insist that they acted “dishonorably” by being who they are.