President Joe Biden has pardoned thousands of veterans convicted under a military law that criminalized consensual gay sex, aiming to rectify what he calls "a historic

wrong." This law, established in 1951 under Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, prohibited sodomy, including consensual acts between adults. Although the law was amended in 2013 to only prohibit forcible acts, many service members still carried the burden of these convictions.

Biden's pardon, issued during Pride Month, allows affected veterans to apply for a certificate proving their conviction has been erased. This certificate will enable them to petition for an upgrade of their military discharge status, potentially restoring pay and benefits previously denied due to their discharge.

"Today, I am righting a historic wrong by using my clemency authority to pardon many former service members who were convicted simply for being themselves," Biden stated. He highlighted the sacrifices and courage of LGBTQ+ service members who faced court-martial and discharge due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The pardoning process's details are still unfolding, but a U.S. official indicated that veterans might need to apply online for their case to be reviewed. After obtaining a pardon certificate, they would then apply to their respective military department’s board of corrections for a discharge status change. The pardon does not cover service members convicted of nonconsensual acts.

An estimated 2,000 veterans are expected to be affected by this pardon. Biden emphasized the nation's obligation to all service members, including LGBTQ+ individuals, to equip and care for them properly.

Biden has a history of using his clemency powers for large groups. In 2023, he pardoned thousands of people convicted of marijuana offenses in Washington, DC, and on federal lands and commuted the sentences of 11 non-violent drug offenders.

"This move is about dignity, decency, and ensuring our armed forces' culture reflects the values that make us an exceptional nation," Biden remarked.

The U.S. military's treatment of LGBTQ+ personnel has evolved significantly over the years. The "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, enacted in 1993, allowed non-heterosexual service members to serve without revealing their sexual orientation but barred openly LGBTQ+ individuals from service. This policy was repealed in 2011, permitting LGBTQ+ individuals to serve openly. In 2023, the Defense Department began reviewing military records of those discharged under less than honorable conditions due to their sexual orientation, reflecting ongoing efforts to address past injustices. Photo by Benson Kua, Wikimedia commons.