Gay veterans in Germany to be eligible for compensation as nation deals with past discrimination
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 27, 2020
STUTTGART, Germany — Gays who faced discrimination in the German military will receive financial compensation and have their records cleared, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet decided this week in an attempt to address decades of mistreatment.
“We cannot erase the suffering inflicted upon these people,” Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German media Wednesday.
The payments, described by the defense ministry as “symbolic,” are meant to “turn the page on a dark chapter in the history of the armed forces,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said, as reported by Deutsche Welle online.
Those eligible for the $3,590 payments include veterans who were passed over for promotion, demoted and those convicted in military court for being gay. The legislation applies to gays who served between 1955 and 2000, which was the year when discrimination against gays in the military was banned. The legislation is expected to gain the approval of Germany's parliament, where Merkel’s coalition holds a majority.
In the U.S., gays were not allowed to openly serve until the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, dating to 1993, was overturned in 2011. But there hasn’t been any indication that the U.S. intends to go in the direction of Germany by offering financial compensation to gay veterans who were discriminated against in years past.
Between World War II and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” an estimated 114,000 service members were discharged for being gay.
Gays often received other-than-honorable or dishonorable discharges, which meant being denied veterans benefits such as health care. Today, gay veterans can apply for discharge upgrades, but there have been complaints over the years about delays and a cumbersome bureaucratic process.
There also have been legal fights over benefits in the aftermath of DADT. In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union settled a case that resulted in full separation pay for service members who had only received half of that under the policy. The settlement only applied to those who had served since 2004.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called decades of discrimination against gays in the German military ''a dark chapter'' in the country's history. Gay veterans who faced discrimination will receive financial compensation and have their records cleared, the German government decided this week.
SEBASTIAN WILKE/GERMAN ARMED FORCES