Air Force Grants Honorable Discharge to 91-Year-Old Gay Veteran - NBC Southern California
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Air Force Grants Honorable Discharge to 91-Year-Old Gay Veteran

Spires' attorneys have said he is in poor health and would like a military funeral, which the upgrade makes possible

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    (Published Monday, Jan. 9, 2017)

    A 91-year-old veteran who filed a lawsuit after he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force over his sexual orientation has been granted a change to his military record.

    Hubert Edward Spires was discharged from the Air Force with an undesirable designation in 1948 because he is gay, according to the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

    Spires’ husband, who is a U.S. Army veteran, spoke on behalf of his partner of 58 years at a press conference at the Yale Law School in November 2016.

    "Despite the discrimination I faced, I left the military with an honorable discharge," Spire’s husband David Rosenberg said. "It is an injustice that the military has treated Ed and me so differently, despite our equal honorable service."

    In 2011, Spires became eligible to apply for a discharge upgrade a year after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Clinton-era policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. His application was denied twice, once in 2014 and again in 2016, Yale's VLSC said.

    In a letter dated Jan. 5, 2017, the Air Force Board of Correction of Military Records informed Spires that his military records would be corrected to reflect an honorable discharge. His records will also be reviewed to see if Spires is eligible for any financial benefits.

    "...we believe it is more likely than not the applicant was discharged for his sexual orientation and there were no aggravating factors in the record that could, in and of themselves, form the basis of an adverse discharge. Therefore, in the interest of justice, we believe it is appropriate to recommend his records be corrected as set forth below," the Record of Proceedings read.

    Previously the Air Force cited the destruction of his military records in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis as the reason for not changing Spires' discharge status to honorable, according to the legal clinic.

    Spires, who is in poor health and nearly died of pneumonia this past fall, wishes to have a military burial — a benefit he was not entitled to because of his current undesirable discharge status, according to Yale's VLSC.

    Erin Baldwin, one of the law student interns who represented Spires, said that he and his partner are happy to finally have the discharge status Spires deserved and waited for.