Donald Hallman, a veteran from the US Army, was given a dishonorable discharge in 1955 in Frankfurt, Germany, for being gay. He had already served two years. He has now received an honorable discharge and his right to his military benefits reinstated. Sean Mandell reports on this development on Towleroad. Mandell says that Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio Democrat) helped Hallman get his discharge upgraded. CBS News reports, “[Senator] Brown says an estimated 100,000 Americans have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation since World War II and often lost benefits they had earned. Brown co-sponsored federal legislation to help service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation [to] correct their military records and receive reinstated benefits.
This is fine. It is satisfying that Senator Brown reminds us that there have been 100,000 other Americans who have been discharged from the military since World War II because of their sexuality. The military should get to work on finding these soldiers who got dishonorable discharges. The Department of Defense should not force these men and women to appeal— each one of them and singly—to the US Army Review Board. The problem here is not an individual one, although, God knows, it certainly affected individual men and women. The problem is one that was created by a DOD-wide policy that homosexual men and women can’t serve in the military, a policy in place from the end of World War II to the creation of DADT in 1993, and from 1993 to December 18, 2010, when DADT was repealed. See also here. The Department of Defense should find the names of these service people and upgrade their discharges automatically, and it should hold major public ceremonies welcoming these men and women back to their benefits and to their positions as honored and honorable men and women of America. Which they are.
And, of course, the US Government should pay reparations. We cannot know the damage that was done to the lives of these men and women—what lifetime occupations were closed to them because of their dishonorable discharges, what health problems they might not have suffered had they access to VA health benefits. But we can know that the government owes these people. And it owes them plenty.