Biden pardons thousands of veterans convicted under military ban on gay sex

Biden pardons thousands of veterans convicted under military ban on gay sex

President Joe Biden has pardoned what could be thousands of veterans who were convicted under a military law that banned consensual gay sex, saying that he is using his clemency authority to right “a historic wrong.”

Service members endured more than 60 years of this law, which was put in place in 1951 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in Article 125 criminalized sodomy, including between consenting adults.

The law has since been rewritten in 2013 after it repealed the part of the code that criminalized consensual acts and now only prohibits forcible acts.

More than 10 years since the law change, Biden has pardoned veterans who were convicted by this law, who will be able to apply to receive proof that their conviction has been erased in the form of a certificate and then go on to petition to have their military discharge upgraded, according to various reports.

This will allow them to potentially recover pay and benefits they would have not previously received due to their discharge status.

“Today, I am righting an historic wrong by using my clemency authority to pardon many former service members who were convicted simply for being themselves,” Biden said in a statement about his pardon that comes during Pride month.

“Despite their courage and great sacrifice, thousands of LGBTQI+ service members were forced out of the military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some of these patriotic Americans were subject to court-martial, and have carried the burden of this great injustice for decades.”

It is currently unclear how long the pardoning process could take or how it would happen, but a US official source told CNN that veterans may have to apply online for their case to be reviewed. Once they have a certificate of pardon, the service member would then have to apply to their respective military department’s board of corrections for their discharge status to be changed.

Service members who have been convicted of nonconsensual acts will not be covered in the president’s pardon.

While no official numbers have been released, a US official told CNN that the pardon will affect roughly 2,000 people.

“We have a sacred obligation to all of our service members – including our brave LGBTQI+ service members: to properly prepare and equip them when they are sent into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families when they return home. Today we are making progress in that pursuit,” Biden added.

Biden has previously used his clemency powers to pardon large groups of people, such as in 2023 when he pardoned thousands of people convicted of marijuana fences in Washington, DC, and on federal lands, as well as commuting the sentences of 11 non-violent drug offenders.

In this pardon, Biden said that his move was about “dignity” and “decency” as well as “ensuring the culture of our armed forces reflect the values that make us an exceptional nation.”

The way the United States has acted towards military personnel and service members who are LGBTQ+ has changed in recent years.

A policy named “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was put in place in 1993, which prohibited military personnel from discriminating against non-heterosexual service members who did not reveal their sexual orientation, while still barring openly LGBTQ+ individuals from military service.

In 2011, Congress repealed this law, allowing LGBTQ+ people to serve the country without hiding who they are, and in 2023, the Defence Department started to review military records of those affected by this policy, such as if they were discharged under less than honorable conditions as a result of their sexual orientation.