DENVER (KDVR) — Lawmakers’ first full week back in session is officially in the books. Before they left for the weekend, senators went over a bill addressing equality for LGBT veterans, calling on Colorado to ensure a dark part of our nation’s history doesn’t impact the future of veterans here.
For the past decade, lawmakers in Congress have been trying to pass a bill to right the wrongs of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era of military service. Until that happens, lawmakers in Colorado are working to make it law at the state level.
It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 U.S. Military members were discharged because of the sexual orientation since World War II.
The measure introduced by Adams County Sen. Dominick Moreno would not change any federal benefits for members who were removed simply for being out, but it would give them the status of a Discharged LGBT veteran in Colorado, allowing them to be eligible for benefits and programs in the state.
“If you said anything about your sexual orientation or your gender identity, it was grounds for discharge. If you engaged any sexual conduct at all, it was grounds for discharge. So we really are acknowledging now that people can live their lives openly and serve openly and be proud of who they are,” Moreno said. “We’re going to provide them with state-level benefits, which includes in-state tuition, making sure they can get a proper military burial, all those issues are really important. But I want to highlight, federal action is still needed on this issue.”
The bill didn’t receive any opposition on the Senate floor Friday, but there were calls to make the language clearer.
“I don’t see this last part having anything to do with someone being LGBT,” said Republican Sen. Jim Smallwood of Douglas County. “I see this as being somebody who was discharged because of/and/or disclosure of statements, any conduct or any acts that were prohibited at the time of discharge.”
Moreno amended the bill, making sure who the measure is intended to help is clear in the language.
“If you were discharged for anything else, any other conduct, any other acts, that were prohibited by the military other than your gender identity or sexual orientation, you are not eligible under this bill,” Moreno said.
The bill cleared its first hurdle in the Senate, but lawmakers are already saying they look forward to giving it another hard look when it comes back for its final reading in the chamber on Monday.