In honor of Military Appreciation Month, six major national armed forces organizations representing more than one million veterans are calling on the U.S. Senate to ensure LGBTQ veterans are protected from discrimination by passing the Equality Act.
In an open letter sent to U.S. Senators, the veterans called on members of Congress to pass nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans. The letter was organized by Freedom for All Americans – a co-founder of Freedom & Opportunity For All. The Equality Act passed in a bipartisan victory in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year and the Senate Judiciary Committee held a first-ever hearing on the legislation in March.
“All veterans and former service members deserve respect and dignity,” the veterans wrote in the open letter. “However, for those who answer the call to serve, the lack of comprehensive federal protections means that America’s LGBTQ veterans remain vulnerable to discrimination in their daily lives, including in housing, healthcare, credit, lending, federally funded programs and in public spaces — such as theaters, hotels, and hospitals. Congress must update our federal laws to provide comprehensive protections for all LGBTQ Americans, including veterans and active duty service members.”
The letter comes more than 10 years after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which prohibited LGBTQ service members from serving openly; and after the Biden administration lifted the transgender military ban. An estimated one million U.S. LGBTQ veterans remain vulnerable to discrimination across the country. Below are some statements from major national armed forces organizations endorsing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people:
Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA):
“LGBTQ service members put their lives on the line to defend our country’s values and they must similarly be ensured freedom from discrimination at home. Congress should pass legislation as soon as possible to update federal law and allow all Americans, including our LGBTQ veterans, to have basic opportunities and go about their lives without fear of being turned away or humiliated because of who they are.”
Lindsay Church, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Minority Veterans of America (MVA):
” We must keep dismantling discriminatory practices in the military and ensuring that the federal government updates our country’s civil rights laws to bring us closer to liberty and justice for all. A bipartisan supermajority of Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections and Congress must prioritize enacting legislation that explicitly prohibits LGBTQ discrimination in all areas of life.”
Kelly Finn Störmer, Executive Director of Combined Arms Institute:
“Since the founding of our nation there have been LGBTQ individuals serving honorably in our Armed Forces. Yet only in the last ten years did we allow them to serve openly in the ranks. It is time that we continue making legislative progress and acknowledge that still in 2021, not all Americans have the same equal protections under the law. We must take action to immediately pass legislation that allows ALL Americans, including our LGBTQ veterans, to have the basic opportunities to live their authentic lives without ongoing fear of discrimination because of who they are.”
LeAnne Withrow, communications director of SPART*A:
“American service members and veterans who are LGBTQ should be treated with the same values of dignity and respect at home that they fight for abroad. Congress must pass federal legislation like the Equality Act in order to bring our country closer to a place where all Americans can seek liberty and the pursuit of happiness, no matter who they are.”
Jennifer Dane, CEO & Executive Director of Modern Military Association of America:
“Millions of our nation’s service members have been LGBTQ, at least 114,000 of which were unfairly discharged under discriminatory policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” To this day, LGBTQ veterans continue to face challenges accessing basic services and rights they deserve. Passing nondiscrimination legislation at the federal level is the only way to ensure the safety, access to care and employment, and basic dignity and respect all human beings deserve regardless of who they are or who they love.”
Deshauna Barber, CEO of SWAN (the Service Women’s Action Network):
“Our LGBTQ veterans and their families deserve consistent and definite protections in every aspect of their daily lives. It is unjust that the ones called to serve are met with discrimination in housing, healthcare, credit, lending, federally funded programs, and public spaces. By providing our support we ensure that our efforts to eliminate barriers, expand inclusivity, and create a safe environment for our service members are met.”
More information can be found at www.PassTheEqualityAct.com.
ABOUT FREEDOM & OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL
Freedom & Opportunity For All is a national campaign advocating for the urgent passage of the Equality Act — historic federal legislation that would modernize and improve our nation’s civil rights laws by including explicit, permanent protections for LGBTQ people, as well as women, people of color, and people of all faiths. The campaign — supported by hundreds of the nation’s top leaders in civil rights, faith, education, health care, and advocacy — is co-founded and led by 16 of the nation’s leading advocates for equality, including Center for American Progress; Equality Federation; Freedom for All Americans; GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders; GLSEN; Human Rights Campaign; Lambda Legal; National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for Lesbian Rights; National Center for Transgender Equality; National LGBTQ Task Force; National Women’s Law Center; PFLAG National; SAGE; Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund; and The Trevor Project.