KOB Eyewitness News 4: New bill aimed at dishonorably discharged gay veterans

By:  Kai Porter

Being dishonorably discharged from the military sticks with you for the rest of your life. It makes it harder to get a job, you aren’t entitled to military benefits, and it can even make it harder to vote.

But what about those who have been dishonorably discharged for their sexual orientation? Several New Mexico lawmakers are working to change that.

"Once I left the service and went out into the commercial world, it was very difficult to explain why, after 13 years, I was leaving the Navy," said Ron Freeny. He spent 13 years as a Navy officer until someone outed him as gay in 1978. He resigned to avoid being dishonorably discharged. Those were the days of "don't ask, don't tell."

"That was what we termed the ‘witch hunt’ days," said Freeny. "Where if you were suspected, or involved, or caught being involved in any activity that was detrimental to the service, you were either court-martialed or found other means of discharge"

Now that "don't ask, don't tell" is a thing of the past, a new bill, called the Restore Honors to Military Service Members Act, aims to correct military records of anyone discharged because of their sexual orientation to show they served honorably. That also means they'd be entitled to benefits.

"We need to now look back into the past and realize there were a lot of people who served their county with a great deal of honor and valor who we need to make this right for," said Senator Martin Heinrich. He’s co-sponsoring the bill along with Senator Tom Udall and Representatives Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham.

"Number one, it would take that burden off," said Freeny. "It would say that their service was worthwhile and they can lift their head up now and be proud of serving."

We’ll let you know if the bill passes.