91-year-old gay veteran Ed Spires of Norwalk, CT has filed suit to get his “undesirable discharge” status upgraded, and after spending three weeks in the hospital battling pneumonia, one of his last wishes is to be granted permission for a full military burial.
Out of shame, Spires kept quiet for 70 long years about why he was discharged from the Air Force and told of the inquisition he faced before superior officers when he was told to pack bags and go home because he was gay,”
Spires served in the Air Force from 1946 to 1948, but received an “undesirable discharge” when he was outed for being gay. After the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in 2011, Spires requested a discharge upgrade. The Air Force responded by saying his paperwork stipulating why he was discharged was lost in a fire back in the 70’s.
Students from the Yale Law School Veterans Services Clinic took on his cause and filed a federal lawsuit against the Air Force Friday morning. They are seeking to get his discharge upgraded to “honorable.”
Originally called “Blue discharges” armed service members holding a blue discharge were subjected to discrimination in civilian life. They were denied the benefits of the G.I. Bill by the Veterans Administration and had difficulty finding work because employers were aware of the negative connotations of a blue discharge. Following intense criticism in the press and in Congress, the blue discharge was discontinued in 1947, replaced by two new classifications: general and undesirable but both still carried the same stigma
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), is the ranking member of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee and said 100,000 vets received similar discharges for sexual orientation. Only about 500 of those have filed to have it upgraded. Blumenthal praised Spires for his efforts.
“He is the voice and face of an effort to seek justice for tens-of-thousands of other vets,” Blumenthal said.
“We hope that in doing so the U.S. Military may send a message to other gay vets that their service is appreciated and recognized under the law,” Rosenberg said.
Connecticut District Court Judge Victor Bolden has been assigned the case. Bolden once served as Corp. Counsel for the City of New Haven.