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Chairman Mark Takano, Rep. Anthony Brown, and Senator Blumenthal Announce Legislation to Create Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans

A study to understand the effects of discriminatory military policies on LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans

“Our country’s diversity is our military’s greatest strength. By acknowledging and providing redress for past discrimination, we can better foster inclusivity within the ranks, improve unit cohesion and readiness.”

WASHINGTON, DCToday, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and co-Chair of the Equality Caucus, and Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) introduced the Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act in the House, legislation that would establish a commission to conduct an investigation into the historic and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies and practices on LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will be introducing companion legislation in the Senate in the coming weeks.

“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 Chairman Mark 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.”

“No one should be denied the opportunity to serve our country because of who they love or who they are. For far too long, LGBTQ+ servicemembers experienced discrimination, harassment, lost opportunities and violence because of their identity. Military policy and practice were wrong then and contributed to this unacceptable environment, a fact that our country must acknowledge in order to move forward,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “Our country’s diversity is our military’s greatest strength. By acknowledging and providing redress for past discrimination, we can better foster inclusivity within the ranks, improve unit cohesion and readiness.”

“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.’ I’m proud to lead this bill in the Senate and ensure a more equitable future for all of our nation’s bravest,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

For decades, LGBTQ members of the U.S. military and veterans faced discrimination stemming from official military policies including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Trans Military Ban. The Commission to Study the Stigmatization, Criminalization, and Ongoing Exclusion and Inequity for LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act, otherwise known as the Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act, would launch a comprehensive study on the effects of discriminatory military policies on affected servicemembers, their families, and their units to help America learn the full extent of the harm caused by these policies and the status of protections for LGBTQ servicemembers today.

Approximately 114,000 servicemembers were discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation between WWII and 2011, while an estimated 870,000 LGBTQ veterans have been impacted by “hostility, harassment, assaultive behavior, and law enforcement targeting” by discriminatory military policies.

To this day, many LGBTQ veterans who were discharged on discriminatory grounds are unable to access their VA benefits, and those still serving face inconsistent protections that make them vulnerable to harassment and put their careers at risk.

“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 and Rep. Anthony Brown 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 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," said Andy Blevins, Minority Veterans of America's Operations and Finance Director. "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.”

“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.

There are currently 250,000 active duty LGBTQ servicemembers and over 1.5 million LGBTQ veterans receiving healthcare from VA. But there continues to be a pervasive lack of data collection on LGBTQ servicemember and veteran populations, and an absence of education for both members of the military and the general public about members of the LGBTQ community who serve in uniform. This legislation seeks to address that.

The Commission on LGBTQ Servicemembers and Veterans Act would:

  • Establish a commission to conduct a fact-finding investigation, which will include the collection of testimonies from servicemembers, veterans, families, advocacy organizations, government agencies, and others; 
  • Make recommendations to Congress for a path forward that various government agencies, service providers, and the military should follow to ensure equity for LGBTQ+ Americans who wish to serve.

This legislation is supported by the Human Rights Campaign, Minority Veterans of America, and Modern Military Association of America.

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