LD 2162 – An Act To Restore Honor to Certain Service Members passes committee

AUGUSTA – Yesterday, Speaker of the House Sara Gideon presented her bill that would ensure that veterans discharged from military service due to their sexual orientation or gender identity are eligible to claim their state benefits earned as a result of their service to this country. LD 2162, An Act to Restore Honor to Certain Service Members, received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, followed immediately by a work session. Members not present in person have 24 hours to cast their vote. The final vote was unanimous (9-0, OTP-AM) to support the legislation. 

“The women and men who serve in our military deserve nothing less than the recognition and benefits they have earned for their service. Unfortunately, for those in the LGBTQ+ community, that hasn’t always been the case,” said Speaker Gideon. “With this measure, we are asserting here in Maine that will not stand. Our veterans have always been there for us, we should be there for them.” 

In 2011, Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and ended institutionalized discrimination against gay and lesbian members of the military. However,  thousands of individuals still bear the damage of that history of discrimination, either with their military records marked with discharges other than honorable or with discriminatory discharge narratives that disclose their sexual orientation. These discharges can disqualify service members from obtaining the benefits they earned. While military discharge decisions can only be formally changed by the federal government, this bill allows these veterans to apply to claim their Maine benefits.

The Maine Bureau of Maine Veterans Services (MBVS), advocates and allies testified in favor of the bill. 

“Any veteran who has attempted to attain their service records on their own, make corrections to those records, or update their medals or awards, knows firsthand that the process of working with individual branches of the military takes time,” said David Richmond, MBVS Director. “The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services is ready and willing to establish a state application process, administered out of our central office, to provide state veterans benefits to Maine veterans who were treated unfairly due to their sexual orientation.”

Should the Maine Legislature reconvene for a special session, this bill will face further votes in the House and Senate.