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Pride Month Celebrated by Veterans Who Fight for Equality

Pride Month Celebrated by Veterans Who Fight for Equality

IAVA Supported Repeal of DADT, Emphasizes Why Diversity Matters To Veterans, National Security, Opposes Anti-Transgender House Amendment

NEW YORK (June 29, 2017) — Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading post-9/11 veterans empowerment organization, issued the following statement in recognition of national LGBT Pride Month, celebrating and supporting LGBT Americans:

“Diversity is a force multiplier for our armed forces as well as for our nation. Equality and inclusion are good for our national security. As a next-generation veterans empowerment organization, IAVA is proud of our record of standing with our LGBT brothers and sisters in arms. For many years, our courageous LGBT members and allies have led the charge for equality within VA and Department of Defense, ” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA. “As outlined in our Policy Agenda, IAVA will continue to lead to ensure LGBT service members veterans and families are treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to all members of the military. We will also hold the line and fight against any efforts to roll back important progress made, including strongly opposing the withdrawn amendment that the House Armed Services Committee debated last night that would prohibit Transgender people from serving in the military.”

IAVA was the only national veterans organization to support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). In 2010, IAVA supported the repeal of DADT amidst arguments that the repeal would negatively impact mission readiness. According to IAVA’s most recent member survey, 80 percent of respondents feel that this repeal had a neutral or positive impact on mission readiness.

In 2013, IAVA also submitted an amicus brief arguing for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). IAVA argued that DOMA was not only morally wrong and unconstitutional, but it also impeded the readiness of our armed forces and negatively impacted unit cohesion and morale by forcing the DoD to treat some service members and their families different from others.

IAVA also supported the June 2016 announcement by DoD to allow transgender troops to serve openly without threat of discharge.
More work remains to ensure that all service members, veterans and their families are truly treated equally under the law and IAVA is committed to fighting for all those who serve and have served.

IAVA’s policy suggestions, as outlined in our policy agenda, are:

Equalize Benefits and Services for LGBT Veterans and Their Families: The Supreme Court decision in the Windsor case brought about the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which opened up over 1,100 federal benefits for same-sex couples and families, including those for active duty service members.79 With the historic Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges finding that states cannot keep same sex couples from marrying and must recognize their union, the VA and DoD must now ensure same-sex partners of veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled. With this recent decision, Section 103c of Title 38, often referred to as a “mini-DOMA,” must be repealed, and the VA must work quickly to ensure equality of benefits to all veterans and their partners.

Conduct Outreach to LGBT Veterans: The changes to the status of and benefits available to LGBT troops and veterans over the past few years have left many confused or unaware of the new benefits and opportunities now available to them. This is especially the case for veterans who have been disconnected from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) for many years. Many veterans are not aware that they can now change the reasons for discharge if they were previously discharged for “homosexuality,” or that some may be eligible for discharge characterization upgrades if their previous characterization was based solely on animus and prejudice. Others remain in the dark about their eligibility for VA health care, education and home loan benefits. Still others have simply felt shunned or fearful of being shunned should they enroll in the VA and begin accessing the benefits and services for which they may have been eligible.

Equalize Treatment of LGBT Troops and their Families in Overseas Assignments: The 2013 Supreme Court case United States vs. Windsor invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to gay couples married legally in their states. Soon after the Department of Defense announced its intention to fully comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, the Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) between the United States and some foreign countries in which U.S. troops may be stationed have not followed suit. Even in some countries that recognize rights and benefits for same-sex couples and families, the existing SOFAs have yet to be updated to reflect a change in U.S. law following the Windsor decision. The continued existence of such outdated agreements creates a professional and family dilemma for service members who may want or need to be stationed abroad for certain long-term overseas assignments. Often the legal frameworks to renegotiate these SOFAs are already in place and the primary hold-up is administrative and bureaucratic.

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