Martin O’Malley calls for clearing military records of those discharged due to sexual orientation

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.

Martin O'Malley, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin O’Malley, via Wikimedia Commons

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.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • B00Z

    The motion is a no-brainer. Soldiers should have never faced discharge.

  • MattM

    “Oh, good God, Alexis. Do your lies never stop?”

  • LanceThruster

    Great idea. Hope they can get that done.

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  • My ex-brother-in-law served in the Navy in the 1970s. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, he says everyone — including his CO — knew he was gay. He was good at his job though, and so he was the beneficiary of benign neglect regarding his personal life.

    I got into a big argument over on another site with some guy who seemed to think DADT was a net positive and it somehow allowed people to serve who couldn’t before. “It was a total ban before, then it wasn’t!” was this commenter’s refrain.

    It was never a total ban, not before and not after. More plainly, all DADT did was codify into law the practice the military had already been following for decades. Meanwhile, nobody was ever prosecuted or punished for violating the “Don’t Ask” part, while many loyal servicemen and -women were kicked out anyway despite sticking to the “Don’t Tell” requirement.

  • Indigo

    It’s about time!

  • nicho

    Same as WW2. Military superiors knew people were gay, but didn’t do anything about it as long as they needed cannon fodder. Once the war was over, they started tossing people out.

  • nicho

    UPDATE: I missed this earlier, but Clinton has also called for upgrading these veterans’ statuses.

    Don’t feel bad. Trying to keep up with Hillary’s position from one day to the next would require a staff of 10.

  • WHY HASN’T THIS ALREADY BEEN DONE??? YES, I KNOW I’M YELLING!

  • WildwoodGuy

    I understand where you’re coming from on this… but if it might mean the difference between getting the healthcare/benefits/pension you need and not getting anything at all… I might be inclined to bite the bullet on this one, as much as it pains me to say so.

  • JaneE

    Requiring a change of discharge status should have been a part of the original order normalizing gay soldiers. Do it now, as a matter of justice and equal protection.

  • Bill_Perdue

    That’s a start. It should be followed by checks for $500,000.00 each for everyone who suffered from discrimination because of Bill Clinton’t DADT or earlier discrimination based on military bigotry and law.

  • Good. Far, far too many were kicked out not because they’d intentionally violated the “Don’t Tell” part, but because someone with a vendetta wanted them gone. And far too many were sent into harm’s way, into combat during the last two wars, only to be dishonorably discharged when they were no longer needed.

  • mf_roe

    O’Malley has no real path to victory, but he may have hitched a worthwhile project to Clinton’s coat-tails. He probably has doomed the stated objective because Clinton is pretty consistent when it comes to carrying another’s water.

  • Indigo

    I hear that!

  • Jim Olson

    Even if they pass this, I want nothing to do with my past, the VA, or any of it. Screw them.

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