On Saturday, October 3, 2015, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke to the Human Rights Campaign and passionately reiterated her support for the LGBT community. In particular, she told the crowd that she believed that LGBT military service members who have been discharged due to their sexual orientation should receive retroactive honorable discharges.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell is over, but that doesn't change the fact that more than 14,000 men and women were forced out of the military for being gay, some long before Don't Ask, Don't Tell even existed," she told the HRC crowd, Stars and Stripes reports. "I can't think of a better way to thank those men and women for their service than by upgrading their service records."
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was the controversial law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 that allowed LGBT individuals enroll in the military provided that they concealed their sexual orientation. Before that, LGBT individuals were not allowed to enlist and, if any were found within the ranks, they were given a less than honorable discharge.
EXPANDING ON MODERN POLICIES
Reflecting a shift in military perspective, Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed in 2011. There are also currently avenues for former LGBT service members to request to have their military record corrected. As The Christian Science Monitor reports, such is the case of Donald Hallman, an 82-year-old former Army private who was discharged as a "Class II homosexual" in 1955. "I’ve gotten to a point in my life where no one can hurt me now,” he told the New York Times in a recent profile. "I want to show I was an honorable person."
For many, dishonorable and less than honorable discharges can haunt a personal record long after a dismissal from military service. These dismissals can bar an individual from significant benefits and hurt their chances of civilian employment. "You might as well have never even enlisted," former Marine Michael Hartnett told NPR. "[It's] worse than being a convicted felon." From Clinton’s speech, she seemed to suggest a need for greater access to these petition opportunities, or an automatic action that would correct those 14,000 less than honorable discharges simultaneously.
As Christian Science Monitor points out, however, the military's stance on LGBT personnel is rapidly changing. Just weeks ago, the Army announced its hiring of its first openly gay secretary, Eric Fanning. As the Monitor's Patrick Johnson wrote on that report, Fanning ""has the power to influence policy and promotion and, thus, set a tone for Army culture."
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A military attorney performs many of the same duties as his civilian counterpart. The difference is that the attorney works for and with military personnel. Military legal personnel participate in court proceedings in courtrooms on military bases all across the globe.