About 180 honorably discharged servicemembers who received half of the separation pay because they are gay will now receive their full discharge pay. This is because of a class action lawsuit that was recently settled by the U.S. Government.
At issue is a Department of Defense policy that said servicemembers who were discharged for being gay would only receive half the benefits of those honorably discharged for other reasons.
The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU’s New Mexico chapter (ACLU-NM).
The lead plaintiff in the case Collins v. United States was Richard Collins a former Staff Sgt. who was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. When he was spotting kissing his boyfriend off-base, he was honorably discharged as part of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. That policy, which said that gay servicemembers could serve as long as they hid their sexuality, has since been revoked.
The pay reduction was part of Department of Defense policy and not part of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, according to The Advocate.
“There was absolutely no need to subject these service members to a double dose of discrimination by removing them from the armed forces in the first place, and then denying them this small benefit to ease the transition to civilian life,” said Laura Schauer Ives, managing attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico, in a statement. “This decision represents a long-delayed justice to these veterans.”
“This means so much to those of us who dedicated ourselves to the military, only to be forced out against our will for being who we are,” said Collins in a statement. “We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.”
The settlement covers all servicemembers discharged because of their sexual orientation on or after November 10, 2004. This includes all those discharged in the time covered under the applicable statute of limitations.
The settlement says the U.S. government will contact all the servicemembers who are eligible for the settlement and be told they are eligible for the payments.
After the settlement Monday of a class action lawsuit brought in New Mexico, about 181 such men and women will be getting the money that was withheld.Note: The last paragraph and a half was omitted from the previous version of story.