Sen. Tom Cullerton

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Tom Cullerton (D- Villa Park) is fighting to restore benefits to veterans who were subject to an “other than honorable” discharge from the military for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Those who valiantly served their country should be honored with benefits no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Cullerton, chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “This measure will be a step toward undoing the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community has historically faced in the military.”

According to a 2020 report from Harvard Law School, more than 100,000 service members were expelled from the military between World War II and the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. These discharges were considered OTH, which kept these service members from receiving state and federal benefits.

House Bill 1290 would change a person’s OTH discharge to an honorable discharge if their OTH discharge was solely due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This would allow people discharged for this reason to begin receiving state veterans benefits.

“Despite the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy a decade ago, LGBTQ+ veterans are still unnecessarily facing the struggles of being denied benefits,” said Cullerton, who is a veteran himself. “It’s time we restore these benefits to these individuals who so rightfully deserve them.”

The measure passed the Senate Veterans Affairs committee and will now move to the floor for a full vote in the Senate.