By Jarrett Renshaw
NEW YORK, June 6 (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Representative Seth Moulton, a 2020 presidential candidate, on Thursday said if elected he would seek to retroactively upgrade the discharge status of military members dismissed on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Moulton, a former U.S. Marine who did four tours in Iraq, said former service members now must challenge their discharge status even though President Barack Obama repealed the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
A less-than-honorable discharge means no or limited access to military benefits, such as the GI Bill and healthcare, and hurts their career prospects.
"If you were kicked out of a service because you're gay or if you engaged in homosexual activity, then we're going to right that wrong," the Massachusetts congressman said on CNN.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, implemented under President Bill Clinton, prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people from military service.
The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" did not include retroactive upgrades for service members who had been less-than-honorably discharged since World War Two because of their sexual preference.
Moulton estimated there have been about 100,000 service members kicked out of the military for "being gay."
"We've changed the policy, but we haven't gone back to fix the discharges of those people who were kicked out," Moulton said.
His comments came on the same day President Donald Trump joined world leaders in France to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy, the U.S.-led invasion widely considered as the turning point in World War Two.
Of the more than 20 candidates for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination, only South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has publicly said he is gay.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Steve Orlofsky)
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