U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin used the 12th anniversary of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Wednesday to urge discharged LGBTQ+ service members to apply for "corrective relief" if they feel their discharges were unjust. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday too many have been discharged from the military based on their sexual orientation as he announced a new effort to correct injustices to LGBTQ+ veterans' military records.
Austin's statement came on the 12th anniversary of the repeal of the so-called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy concerning LGBTQ+ men and women serving in the military.
"Unfortunately, too many of them were discharged from the military based on their sexual orientation -- and for many this left them without access to the benefits and services they earned," Austin's statement said. "Over the past decade, we've tried to make it easier for Service members discharged based on their sexual orientation to obtain corrective relief."
He said in the coming weeks the Defense Department will begin new outreach campaigns to encourage all service members and veterans who believe they've suffered an error or injustice to seek correction to their military records.
The repealed policy had made it possible for gay people to serve in the military but fell short of allowing them to be open about their sexual orientation while serving.
Former President Barack Obama said when the policy was repealed that "patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love."
Austin said in his Wednesday statement, "The Department values the contributions LGBTQ+ service members, veterans, and their families have made. I continue to encourage service members who were discharged when this policy was in effect to apply for a record correction through the Military Departments' Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records."
For decades, LGBTQ+ service members were forced to hide their sexual orientation or were prevented from serving altogether. But Austin said their contributions have made U.S. armed forces more representative of the American people and better able to handle future challenges.
In June the Pentagon bowed to House Republican pressure and ordered U.S. military bases not to host drag show entertainment events.
Austin said then that the military remains committed to keeping its doors open to the LGBTQ community.