Several weeks ago, the free hotline at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network rang as it has done every day for nearly 20 years. Before the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), we could bet that on the other end would be a service member facing the fear — or the very real possibility — of being discharged simply for who he or she was, a gay or lesbian patriot wanting nothing more than to serve the country they loved.
Thankfully, we don't receive those calls anymore. Instead, however, we hear from service members whose spouses and families are not being treated equally by the military or from those who want to join or rejoin now that DADT has been repealed. About half the time, we also hear from veterans who were discharged for being gay or lesbian, and who are still dealing with the fallout.
On this day, the call was from a gay veteran seeking our help, and we knew after hearing his story that he was a perfect fit for SLDN's post-DADT repeal legal services. He served in the U.S. Navy for 17 years and had an excellent service record with great reviews and no disciplinary history. After hiding his sexual orientation for well over a decade, he came out to a fellow service member whom he trusted. Shortly thereafter, there was an investigation and he was discharged honorably, but with a narrative reason on his discharge paperwork that reads, "homosexual conduct admission."
Since then, as is required by many employers, this veteran who served our country honorably and with integrity, has been asked to provide a copy of his discharge paperwork as a condition of employment. Each time, he has been forced unnecessarily to "out" himself once again in his small town, and he believes this indignity has cost him more than one job opportunity. He called SLDN for help, and we are now assisting him as he applies to have this narrative removed from his service record.