Thanks to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, former members of the United States Armed Services who were honorably discharged for “homosexuality” will receive their full severance pay.
“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. “This decision represents a long-delayed justice to these veterans.”
Those who serve for at least six years in the military are entitled to severance pay if they are involuntarily and honorably discharged from service. However, the Department of Defense only provided half pay to service members who were honorably discharged for homosexuality. The policy was adopted in 1991, two years before Congress enacted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the policy in 2010, alleging it violated the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process of law. In a settlement, the Defense Department has agreed to provide full severance pay to 181 honorably discharged gay and lesbian veterans.
The lead plaintiff in the case was Richard Collins, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after serving for nine years. Collins total severance pay was cut from approximately $25,700 down to $12,300.
“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,” Collins said. “We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.”
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