ABA Lends Support to House Bill Honoring Gay Vets
In a letter to a congressional subcommittee on Nov. 21, American Bar Association President (ABA) James Silkenat voiced his support for the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, a bill that would upgrade the statuses of gay and lesbian veterans discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT.)
Addressing chairman Joe Wilson and ranking member Susan Davis of the Armed Services Committee, Silkenat characterized the bill as comprising “the final steps necessary to bring about an end to the unfortunate remnants of [DADT],” adding, “this legislation is crucial for the thousands of our veterans who are still experiencing the consequences of that policy and its even more oppressive predecessors.
The bill would create new panels to hear cases from veterans who, because of the discriminatory nature of previous laws, were kicked out of the armed forces. It aims not only to honor due federal benefits for those veterans, but also to remove the blemish of their discharge, and the unfair consequences incurred as a result. However, it falls short of providing monetary recompensation for lost wages and other damages.
The ABA has had a long history of supporting gay rights: first, by opposing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 1993 when it was enacted, and later in 2010, when the organization came out in support of gay marriage. Silkenat says that, in this case, because of the “sensitive special status of the armed forces” and ABA’s relationship with the Department of Defense, he was compelled to make his stance known.
Despite its 138 cosponsors, the bill has a very slim chance of making it out of the notoriously rigid Armed Services Committee. Compounding its grim odds is the fact that, of those 138 cosponsors, only one is Republican. In the Republican-controlled House, that alone is a death sentence.
It need not be said that blatant injustices like the ones targeted in the new bill should stoke a rallying cry in the legal community. If the politicians on the Hill can’t scrub the ugly anachronism of homophobia from our society then, in the spirit of Thurgood Marshall, it seems the only thing left to do is to go “through the courts.” So, channeling my inner Stephen Colbert, I give a tip of the hat to you Mr. Silkenat, and a wag of the finger to you, House Republicans.
Featured image courtesy of [DVIDSHUB/Sgt. Randall Clinton via Flickr]