Last Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed to update the anti-discrimination policy of the Connecticut Military Department to include women and LGBT individuals. This would bring the state’s policy in line with recent changes to the federal military policy.
“Simply put, this legislation will further protect residents who want to serve, regardless of their beliefs or background,” Mallow said in a press release. “Placing archaic, artificial boundaries on the ability to serve, protect our freedoms, and defend our nation is backward. These are long overdue changes. I applaud the federal government for taking this step toward equality. Now, we in Connecticut must do the same.
The Connecticut Military Department encompasses the state’s Army National Guard, Air National Guard and four militia companies.
The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at UConn, like all ROTC programs, operates according to the United States Department of Defense policy, not Connecticut’s Military Department, said the director of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs at UConn Kristopher Perry.
“All of these young men and women in the program today have come in under the policy of anti-discrimination that Governor Malloy is now proposing,” Perry said of the two ROTC programs at UConn, Army and Air Force.
Malloy’s proposal will not impact the approximately 150-student ROTC program at UConn because it is already operating under federal anti-discrimination mandates, Perry said.
The federal policy was most recently updated in 2015 to add sexual orientation to the criteria that cannot be considered in military recruitment, hiring, firing and promotions.
“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a June 9 speech last year. “Young Americans today are more diverse and tolerant than past generations. It’s the only way to compete in the 21st century.”
The Department of Defense’s anti-discrimination policy also includes race, creed, color, national origin and gender.
Currently, Connecticut’s military anti-discrimination law only includes race, religion and creed.
Tim McGehee, a second-semester allied health student who served in the U.S. Coast Guard for four years, agrees with Malloy’s proposal to change Connecticut’s policy.
“Before the federal policy was changed, I had friends that were discriminated against and could not really do anything about it,” McGehee said. “That’s why it should be changed. Even though, for the most part, everyone was really accepting of it, it should still not be a problem they have to face.”
While the U.S. Coast Guard functions under the Department of Homeland Security, it follows the Navy’s policies. The Navy is under the Department of Defense.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut has also shown approval.
“This bill is a step forward for equality in Connecticut,” Legislative and Policy Director for the Connecticut ACLU David McGuire said in a news release. “Barring someone from military service just because of who they are or who they love is discriminatory and wrong. Giving women and LGBT individuals a fighting chance to fight for our state is the right thing to do. The U.S. Defense Department has already swept restrictions on women and gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the military into the dustbin of history, and Connecticut should do the same.”
The proposal, Senate Bill 21, has been referred to the Joint Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.