Aiming to make it easier for New Jersey veterans discharged due to their LGBTQ identity to navigate the process of applying for a discharge upgrade, four Assembly Democrats sponsor a bill that would provide them with assistance through the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).
Up until 2011 when the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was repealed, a service member could be dishonorably discharged simply for their gender identity or sexual orientation. These veterans are now allowed to request a change of designation, but the process can be a long and complicated one.
As such, the bill (A-4623) allows veterans to rightfully request free assistance from DMVA. The Department would notify public agencies that this assistance is available and establish a uniform process for the Department to follow when helping a veteran petition the federal Department of Veterans Affairs for a discharge upgrade.
Upon the bill being advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs committee, sponsors Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), Joe Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset), Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) and John Armato (D-Atlantic) issued the following joint statement:
“Although our country has made significant strides in equality for LGBTQ Americans, our shameful history of discrimination is still affecting veterans to this day. It is incumbent on us to do everything we can to rectify the injustice many service members faced for decades.
“Anyone who was ‘dishonorably’ discharged solely because of their identity or orientation deserves to have official records indicate an honorable discharge status instead. Not only is it a matter of principle, but it would afford these veterans the same benefits and privileges as their fellow service members.
“Assistance from DMVA is how New Jersey can show our support and make it easier for LGBTQ veterans to navigate the process of requesting updated records. It is only right we help them achieve a designation that accurately reflects their honorable service.
“Anyone who served honorably in defense of our great nation is honorable and must be recognized as such.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.