SACRAMENTO – Marking the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Governor Jerry Brown today signed legislation authored by Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) to address the legacy of discrimination that resulted in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans being forced out of the military and denied the official recognition and benefits they earned defending our country.
“Equality begins with the recognition of individual worth,” said Dr. Pan, Vice Chair of the Assembly Committee on Veterans. “Honoring the great service and sacrifices these veterans have made defending us, their fellow Americans, is fundamental to the principals we stand for as a nation.”
“Today’s signing means all the more as the nation celebrates the one-year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Ty Redhouse, President of Sacramento Valley Veterans. “Today is a great day for our nation’s military and our state’s LGBT Veterans.”
Read more: Dr. Pan, Sacramento Valley Veterans Announce Bill Giving State Benefits to LGBT Veterans, 10 November 2011
In 1993, Congress adopted a policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), prohibiting service personnel from inquiring about or volunteering information about their sexual orientation. Prior to 1993, federal law and military regulations prohibited homosexuality in the armed forces. These policies resulted in various levels of discharge for tens of thousands of LGBT service members. Veterans separated from the military with a discharge that is characterized as “dishonorable” or “other than honorable” are ineligible to receive state and federal veterans’ benefits.
AB 1505 reinstates California veterans benefits, rescinded due to a discharge based solely on sexual orientation, automatically when the federal government does the same. AB 1505 also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide resources from veterans legal services organizations that specialize in discharge upgrades and claims representation.
Video: AB 1505 – Supporting LGBT Veterans and Military Families, YouTube, 17 May 2012
“Veterans legal services organizations may be the best help that a veteran gets when confronted with this kind of a challenge,” said Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), who presented the bill on the Senate Floor.
One of these veterans legal services organizations, Swords to Plowshares, has worked to upgrade discharges for LGBT veterans for decades. Swords to Plowshares representative Keith Boylan explained that “Effective claims representation is often the difference between a veteran being denied benefits, and a life-time of health care, disability compensation, and other benefits.”
“LGBT Veterans have defended our country since its beginning, they have played an essential role in the history of the civil rights movement, and I am proud to work with them to build a legacy of equality for all,” Dr. Pan added.
Dr. Richard Pan is a father, pediatrician, educator, small business owner and first-term Assemblymember who lives in Sacramento. He also represents the Cities of Citrus Heights and Folsom and surrounding areas.
Website of Assemblymember Richard Pan: www.asmdc.org/pan
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Sacramento Valley Veterans (SVV) is proud and honored to have seen AB 1505 evolve from its beginning in 2011 to its signing into law today. We would like to thank the following folks for making this happen:
- California Assemblymember Dr. Richard Pan (D – 5th)
- California Senator Christine Kehoe (D – San Diego)
- California Governor Jerry Brown
- Equality California (EQCA)
- Swords To Plowshares
- Veterans Democratic Club of Sacramento County
- Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center
- The Veterans organizations that came aboard to testify in support of AB 1505