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Senate resolution led by Sen. Kaine apologizes for treatment of LGBTQ military servicemembers

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A Senate resolution introduced today acknowledges and apologizes for the mistreatment of and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) individuals who have served in the uniformed services, as civil servants or in the Foreign Service.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led the introduction.

“LGBT civil servants, foreign service officers and servicemembers have made countless sacrifices and contributions to our country and national security. Despite this, our government has subjected them to decades of harassment, invasive investigations and wrongful termination because of who they are or who they love,” Kaine said. “This Pride Month, I’m proud to lead this resolution alongside Senator Baldwin to reaffirm our commitment to righting our past wrongs and fighting for equality for all LGBT Americans.”

The United States has a long, disturbing history of discrimination against servicemembers and other federal employees identifying as LGBT. Beginning in the early 1940s and continuing through the 1990s, a period historians label the “Lavender Scare,” thousands of federal employees were discriminated against because of their sexuality. At least 100,000 LGBT military service members were forced out of the Armed Forces between World War II and 2011, most recently due to the 1994-2011 ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which prohibited servicemembers from disclosing their sexual orientation.

“Anyone who serves our country, whether they are in uniform or a civil servant, deserves to be treated with respect, fairness, and dignity, regardless of who they are or who they love,” Baldwin said. “I am proud to lead this effort to show our commitment to creating a more accepting, equal country that lives up to our nation’s ideals.”

In 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, officially prohibiting the federal government and federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2023, the Department of Defense announced that it would undertake a proactive review of the service records of individuals discharged due to their sexual orientation to assess whether to grant them discharge upgrades. While the significant steps are in the right direction, the U.S. has more work to do to ameliorate the harm done by decades of discriminatory policies.   

Kaine and Baldwin have long fought for equal treatment and rights for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Last year, they introduced the Equality Acthistoric, comprehensive legislation to protect Americans from discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. In 2022, they helped pass the Respect for Marriage Actwhich was signed into law to ensure that same-sex and interracial marriages are recognized by every state.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.