Request Legal Help Now - Free


U.S. Department of Defense Bid to Toss LGBTQ Veterans Discrimination Suit Denied

. By

A California judge has denied U.S. Department of Defense's bid to toss LGBTQ Veterans Discrimination Lawsuit.

Los Angeles, CAA California federal judge has denied the U.S. Department of Defense’s motion to dismiss a California discrimination class action lawsuit brought by LGBTQ Veterans. The DOD claims it has been providing relief to the veterans and argued that they haven't shown their constitutional rights have been violated, but the judge ruled that the former LGBTQ service members discharged under the military's former "don't ask, don't tell" ban continue to be discriminated against.

Sherrill Farrell, a U.S. Navy Veteran in August 2023 filed a class action lawsuit along with four other veterans against the United States Department of Defense, and leaders of the Army, Air Force and Navy, claiming they failed to systemically correct discharge DD-214 forms to show that LGBTQ service members were owed honorable discharges following the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" policies in 2010.

The veterans say they filed the suit to hold the government accountable for its wrongs and restore honor to the many thousands of LGBTQ+ veterans who have been affected by the government’s discriminatory policies. According to the class action, plaintiffs claim that LGBTQ veterans cannot receive health care, housing and unemployment benefits because of their dishonorable discharge statuses.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero ruled that LGBTQ veterans continue to face barriers to benefits offered to veterans solely because their discharge paperwork states they were dishonorably expelled from the military due to their sexual orientation. Law360 reports that, according to the DOD, military correction boards have granted record corrections to 1,400 service members who were discharged for being a member of the LGBTQ community, and the DOD recently stated that it will proactively review veterans' cases if their records show they may have been dishonorably discharged because of their sexual orientation.

But 1,400 service members is a far cry from the more than 29,000 individuals who were denied honorable discharges because of their sexuality. CBS News in June 2023 found from its Freedom of Information Act request that more than 35,000 people were discharged from the military based on sexual orientation between 1980 and 2011. And nearly 30,000 of those people received a discharge status that was less than “Honorable.” These discharges often resulted in veterans being denied the honor, recognition and benefits they deserve for their service.

Discharge Forms

Along with the downgrade in status, veterans who were wrongfully discharged under DADT received discharge forms, DD-214s, that disclose sexual orientation as the reason for discharge. Plaintiff Sherrill Farrell enlisted in the Navy in 1985 but was discharged less than a year later due to her sexual orientation. In an opinion piece for, Farrell wrote that she filed the case “because I want to upgrade my discharge status to “Honorable” and receive a DD-214 that reflects my service to the country and does not disclose my sexual orientation. But even more than that: I want to serve my fellow veterans, particularly the LGBTQ+ veterans, all of whom deserve to have a DD-214 that reflects the honor of their service.

“My DD-214 designates my discharge as “Other Than Honorable” and lists “homosexuality” as the reason…For veterans like me, these DD-214 forms have caused significant and lasting harm — not just in painting our service as less honorable but, for many, in creating barriers to accessing important benefits available to other veterans. These include vital services such as health care, funding for higher education, home loan financing and job benefits — all of which require proof of an “Honorable” discharge.”

Farrell has waited 37 years to have her DD-214 updated. For instance, she still cannot receive a free “veteran” designation on her driver’s license: In Texas veterans are eligible if their DD-214 identifies that they received an “Honorable” discharge.

The LGBTQ veterans class action lawsuit is Farrell et al. v. U.S. Department of Defense et al., Case No. 3:23-cv-04013, in U.S. District Court for the California Northern District.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In 1994, the U.S. adopted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as the official federal policy on military service by lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. For 17 years, the DADT rule’s message was discrimination: it prohibited qualified gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans from serving in the armed forces. DADT assumed that the presence of LGBTQ+ individuals in the military would undermine the ability of people to carry out their duties. It was in effect from February 28, 1994, until September 20, 2011. In 2010, during President Barack Obama’s administration, Congress passed legislation to repeal DADT, which allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual service members to serve openly without fear of discharge due to their sexual orientation.

But the fear is still there. On the Human Rights Campaign website, the Fight for Transgender Rights continues:

In July 2017, President Trump sent a hateful tweet that transgender individuals would no longer be able to enter the military and those currently enlisted would not be allowed to continue in their roles. This was followed by an official memorandum the next month that went into effect in January 2019 amid ongoing lawsuits. Since then, HRC has joined a lawsuit fighting back against the policy. Trump’s ban is baseless, spurious and flat out unpatriotic. HRC is continuing to fight against this ban so that all people — especially transgender individuals — can serve our country.

The federal lawsuit was filed in August 2017 in the U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle against President Trump, the Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and the U.S. Department of Defense.

“I now have an opportunity to serve my country by standing up for my fellow Americans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation. The government has the power to fix the discharge paperwork for those of us discharged due to sexual orientation. It is well past time to do so,” wrote Sherrill Farrell.


California Labor Law Legal Help

If you or a loved one have suffered losses in this case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to an employment law lawyer who may evaluate your California Labor Law claim at no cost or obligation.


Please read our comment guidelines before posting.

Note: Your name will be published with your comment.

Your email will only be used if a response is needed.

Are you the defendant or a subject matter expert on this topic with an opposing viewpoint? We'd love to hear your comments here as well, or if you'd like to contact us for an interview please submit your details here.

Click to learn more about

Request Legal Help Now! - Free