The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted this week to advocate for policies to make it possible for LGBTQ+ service members with less than honorable discharges as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity to change that designation.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl recommended reaching out to legislative advocates in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to press for changes to the U.S. code governing the armed forces.
“We are at a critical point in the history of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. military,” said Kuehl, who is the first openly LGBTQ+ supervisor in the county’s history. “Now is the time, once and for all, to cement equity and inclusion in our military policies, and reverse the discrimination that has unjustly penalized our LGBTQ+ veterans and denied them benefits.”
Veterans without an honorable discharge generally lack access to military benefits such as health and tuition assistance. Their record can also make it harder to get a job.
More than 100,000 members of the U.S. military were expelled from service under gay bans between World War II and the 2011 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — the policy that banned openly gays and lesbian individuals from serving their country—according to an estimate cited by Kuehl and many advocates.
In January, the Biden administration reversed a 2018 Trump-era order banning transgender people from serving and called on military leaders to review discharges made on the basis of gender identity. But the process can be complex and stigmatizing, Kuehl said in her motion.