The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently approved a motion directing county representatives in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to advocate for policies that will make it possible for LGBTQ+ service members who were dishonorably or less-than-honorably discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity to change their discharge designation.
County representatives were also directed to advocate to help trans veterans who transitioned after their military service obtain paperwork updates to reflect their current gender identity. The changes are necessary to allow these veterans to access the benefits to which they’re entitled but are being denied, said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, 3rd District.
“We are at a critical point in the history of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. military,” said Kuehl, the first LGBTQ+ supervisor in Los Angeles County history. “Now is the time, once and for all, to cement equity and inclusion in our military policies and reverse the discrimination that has unjustly penalized our LGBTQ+ veterans and denied them benefits.”
More than 100,000 service members were expelled from the U.S. military between World War II and the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that barred gay and lesbian individuals from serving openly because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Veterans without an honorable discharge are generally excluded from benefits including health care and tuition assistance and may face additional barriers to employment.
In January, the Biden administration reversed a 2018 order banning transgender people from serving in the military and called on U.S. military leaders to review discharges made on the basis of gender identity. The process of updating most discharge records for LGBTQ+ individuals remains cumbersome and often requires extensive legal knowledge, the supervisors said.
“Members of the LGBTQ+ community who have courageously served this country deserve justice and are entitled to the benefits and services that are available to all veterans,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, 1st District. “For decades, members of the LGBTQ+ community have endured discriminatory practices in the military and it is time we take collective action to address these injustices and create equitable pathways that honor the sacrifices of LGBTQ+ veterans and active military service members.”