Sailors and marines cast overboard for being LGBTQ urged to appeal

Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. U.S. Navy

Hello, sailor!  Officials at the U.S. Department of the Navy Department are looking for a few good men who were wronged because of who they love.

And they’re putting out the word to the few, the proud, the Marines, too: “come in.”

Thousands of sailors and Marines discharged from military service because of their sexuality are being urged to come forward and begin the process to appeal that injustice, and win back the benefits they were wrongly denied, reports the Navy Times. 

The go signal comes from none other than the Secretary of the Navy himself, Ray Mabus, who announced this offer in a June 8 speech at a Pentagon event for LGBTQ Pride.

“If you were discharged under ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ come in. The Board of Corrections for Naval Records will take a look at changing that discharge characterization … If you have colleagues that were discharged under that, ask them to come in — if it’s under the regulations, get that discharge characterization changed.”

The branch’s Board for Correction of Naval Records is empowered to overturn a variety of military records, reports the Navy Times, from naval counseling letters to what are called “detachments for cause.” The panel has been actively looking to alert veterans who were forced out by the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as well as the prior ban on homosexuals and transgender people from serving openly. The message the board is sending to them is that they can have their discharges upgraded and their reenlistment codes or reason codes changed, and benefits rightfully restored.

The numbers are staggering. According to Defense Department data obtained by the Navy Times, the Navy has granted 123 discharge upgrades out of 413 requests since opening the service to gays and lesbians in 2011.

The BCNR has granted 107 requests and the Navy Discharge Review Board has granted 183 requests, out of more than 4,300 sailors and 1,300 Marines discharged during DADT, from 1993 to 2011, according to Navy Department statistics.

“The department has recognized a change in societal norms, and we recognize that where the discharge was based only on homosexuality that it would be appropriate to consider a higher discharge,” Scott Thompson told the Navy Times. He was the chief counsel to the chief of Navy personnel and is now ‎Executive Director and Chairman of the BCNR, and was interviewed last month at the Pentagon.

But Thompson warns veterans, patience is required: on average, it’s been taking about a year to close a case, Thompson said, because of the bureaucratic backlog.

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