LGBTQ+ Veterans Still Suffer Harm from “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” 12 Years After Repeal

September 20, 2023, marks the 12-year anniversary of the repeal of the discriminatory law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (“DADT”). For nearly two decades, DADT forced LGBTQ+ service members to conceal their true selves, living in fear of discrimination, harassment, and discharge if their sexual orientation was discovered. 

While the repeal of DADT marked some progress, it did not address the injustice faced by LGBTQ+ veterans who had been discharged under the policy. Many of these veterans received stigmatizing discharge paperwork with references to sexual orientation and, for many, also a discharge status less than Honorable. According to the Department of Defense, more than 35,000 people were discharged from the military based on sexual orientation between 1980 and 2011, the vast majority of whom (nearly 30,000) received a discharge status less than Honorable. These discharges often resulted in veterans being denied the honor, recognition, and benefits they deserve for their service.

Since repealing DADT twelve years ago, the U.S. Government has continued to discriminate against LGBTQ+ veterans by allowing their discharge paperwork to go uncorrected—despite being able to issue widespread record corrections. Having discharge paperwork that shows they were kicked out of the military based on sexual orientation has deeply harmed veterans in many ways:

  • It brings shame to their military service.
  • It flags them as LGBTQ+ to whoever sees it even if they do not identify (publicly or otherwise) as LGBTQ+.
  • It has led many veterans to avoid situations or opportunities that would require showing their discharge paperwork, which has led to isolation.
  • It has deprived veterans of important benefits that other veterans receive, including:
    • health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is particularly critical for people who have health challenges connected to their service or from a traumatic discharge process; 
    • financial support under the GI Bill to further advance their education and future employment prospects; and  
    • home loan benefits that give people a boost to buy their own home and create stability for their family.

This has left veterans with the only option of seeking a record correction themselves. But many don’t even know that they can do this. The lucky ones who do find out must then go through a process that is complicated and very difficult—even for experienced attorneys. And they face potential re-traumatization along the way. 

Five brave veterans recently filed a lawsuit to address these wrongs. Sherrill Farrell, Steven Egland, Jules Sohn, Lilly Steffanides, and James Gonzales wanted to serve their country with honor. They were unjustly denied that honor when they were discharged based on their sexual orientation. They now seek to serve the country by holding the Government accountable for its wrongs and restore honor to the many thousands of veterans who have been affected by the Government’s discriminatory policies.

If you were discharged from the military based on sexual orientation and want to learn more about the lawsuit, here are three options:

  1. Complete the form at
  2. Email: [email protected]
  3. Leave a voicemail: 415-593-0038
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