Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, joins LGBTQ+ veterans and advocates to introduce new legislation to investigate the historic and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies on LGBTQ+ service members and veterans. Max Berryman / Connecticut Public

The impact of policies targeting the sexual orientation of members of the military is the focus of a new bill recently introduced to Congress by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

There are currently around 250,000 active-duty LGBTQ+ service members and more than 1.5 million LGBTQ+ veterans, according to Blumenthal.

Many of those veterans who were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation under policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” still have trouble accessing benefits. Active duty LGBTQ+ service members also deal with inconsistent protections that may put their careers at risk, Blumenthal said.

The Democrat gathered with LGBTQ+ advocates at the State Veterans Memorial in Hartford Tuesday to announce legislation to benefit active service members and veterans who identify with the LGBTQ+ community.

The measure would create a congressional committee to investigate the impacts of anti-LGBTQ+ policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“If anyone has the courage and patriotism, the strength and discipline to serve, they should be welcomed, not discouraged,” Blumenthal said.

Anthony DiLizia, a gay military veteran, spoke in support of the bill.

“Not only is this legislation important in addressing the lasting impacts today, but also addressing the impacts that it’s had on our service members of the past,” said DiLizia, director of Organizational Advancement for the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective.

The measure still needs to be approved by Congress. But Blumenthal said he has bipartisan co-sponsors of the bill and is optimistic the measure will be called for a vote and passed.

For DiLizia, even proposing the bill in Congress was a big step toward righting historic wrongs.

“I was overwhelmed by the possibility that we could finally comprehensively address the impact of discriminatory and prejudiced policies and regulations that plague LGBTQ+ service members and veterans,” DiLizia said.

This story was first published Oct. 11, 2023 by Connecticut Public.