STATE HOUSE — Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) recently filed legislation extending veterans’ benefits to gay or transgender members of the armed forces denied honorable discharges based on sexual orientation.
The bill (2019-H 5443)would permit former membersof the armed forces who received less than honorable discharges based solely on
“Today, gay members of the armed forces can serve proudlyand openly since ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was repealed in 2011,” said RepresentativeVella-Wilkinson, a retired Navy officer. “But that doesn’t absolve us of ourduty and obligation to those who served with honor before then. Many gayservice members who were unceremoniously shown the door have been deniedbenefits for decades. And it’s time to right that wrong.”
By some estimates, as many as 100,000 service members were
“While the military will now upgrade some of thoseundesirable discharges to ‘honorable’ status as long as there were no instancesof misconduct, digging up decades-old records can be difficult andtime-consuming — and it often takes years,” explained RepresentativeVella-Wilkinson, who serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Some ofour LGBT vets who served during World War II, Korean or Vietnam wars choose todeny their service rather than answer prying questions. We don’t have theauthority to reinstate federal benefits but Rhode Island can certainly take abold, compassionatestep to ensure state and local benefits are affordedto all our deserving patriots.”
The bill, which is cosponsored byRepresentativesChristopher T. Millea (D-Dist. 16, Cranston), Joseph S.Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence)