LGBTQ VETERANS BILL SIGNED INTO LAWJuly 29, 2021
Governor Lamont held a bill signing ceremony at the State Capital in Hartford Tuesday to commemorate the adoption of Public Act No. 21-79 – a new law restoring state benefits to Connecticut service members who were denied an honorable discharge due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. House Bill 5592, An Act Redefining "Veteran" and Establishing a Qualifying Review Board, was introduced and co-authored by State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan (D-Bethel, Danbury, Redding, Newtown).
"For nearly 80 years, policies like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ punished American patriots trying to serve their country," said Rep. Allie-Brennan. "This new law corrects an incredible injustice and acknowledges that nobody should be forced to forfeit their hard-earned benefits because of who they are or who they love."
It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 U.S. Military members were discharged because of sexual orientation since World War II. The measure will not change any federal benefits for members who were removed simply for being out, but it would update their discharge status in Connecticut, allowing them to be eligible for benefits and programs in the state.
"Far too often the federal government turns its back on veterans when it is needed the most," said Steve Kennedy of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Connecticut Chapter. "LGBTQ veterans, veterans of color, and veterans with mental health conditions are all more likely to receive less than honorable discharges under a system that favors convenience over justice, and this bill is a strong step in the right direction to make sure that in this state we care for all of our veterans."
"This Legislation is all about doing the right thing, I am thankful to Rep. Allie-Brennan, Rep. Curry, Senator Kasser and Advocate Steve Kennedy for bringing this to the attention of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee," said Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Pat Boyd (D-Brooklyn, Eastford, Pomfret, Union, Woodstock).
The law instructs the Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner to create a process to help veterans who were discharged solely for their gender identity or sexual orientation to revise their designation to show they were discharged honorably. Commissioner Saadi is in the process of finalizing appointments to the qualifying review board and will soon post the application procedures on the Department of Veterans Affairs website with detailed instructions and contact information for questions.
There are no statistics on the number of potentially eligible veterans in Connecticut. Veterans' Affairs Commissioner Thomas Saadi estimates there are a few hundred who will benefit from the new law. "While the number is small, the impact on those affected is great," Saadi said during testimony in support of HB 5592 at the February 11 public hearing.
HB 5592 passed without dissent in both the House and Senate before landing on the Governor's desk.