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President Biden Pardons LGBTQ+ Veterans: A Historic Step Forward

President Joe Biden has pardoned thousands of LGBTQ+ military veterans convicted under Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for consensual same-sex relations. This historic move aims to rectify decades of discrimination and injustice. Affected veterans can now apply for discharge upgrades and regain access to benefits. This action underscores the administration’s commitment to inclusivity and justice for all service members, reflecting the values of a diverse and exceptional nation.

In a landmark decision announced Wednesday, President Joe Biden will pardon U.S. military veterans who were discharged or convicted under military law for consensual same-sex relations. The move, which aligns with the ongoing Pride Month celebrations, marks a significant step toward rectifying past injustices faced by LGBTQ+ service members.

The White House has not provided an exact number of veterans who will be pardoned, but estimates suggest that thousands of individuals convicted over several decades may be eligible. These convictions were enforced under a military law that prohibited certain types of consensual sex from May 1951 to December 2013.

A Commitment to Inclusion and Justice

When questioned about the timing of this decision, senior administration officials emphasized that President Biden is dedicated to ensuring that the armed forces reflect the values of an exceptional nation and maintain the highest standards. “Biden is taking this historic step to ensure that we live up to our sacred obligation to care for all service members, veterans, and their families,” an official stated.

In a written statement, President Biden remarked, “Our Nation’s service members stand on the frontlines of freedom and risk their lives to defend our country. 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.”

Guidance for Affected Veterans

To facilitate the process, the Department of Defense will post guidance on how veterans can apply for proof of their eligibility for the pardon. Veterans can then use this certificate to apply to their respective military branches for a discharge upgrade, potentially unlocking access to benefits they were previously denied.

Biden’s proclamation specifically addresses convictions under Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which criminalized “unnatural carnal copulation,” including consensual oral and anal sex, with another person of the same or opposite sex. While the law did prohibit non-consensual acts with minors and animals, it also unjustly targeted consensual relationships. The military code was updated in 2013 to differentiate between forceful and consensual acts, penalizing only the former.

However, officials acknowledged that Article 125 was not the only law used to target LGBTQ+ service members. The Department of Justice has been instructed to identify other clemency applications for veterans penalized under various military statutes for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

A History of Discrimination

The U.S. military has a long history of discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ individuals. During World War II, gay and lesbian service members were outright banned. In 1993, President Bill Clinton introduced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allowed LGBTQ+ individuals to serve as long as they kept their sexual orientation private. This policy was repealed under President Barack Obama.

Early in his presidency, Biden issued an executive order overturning a ban on transgender service members, further demonstrating his administration’s commitment to inclusivity.

The U.S. Constitution grants the president several forms of clemency powers, including full pardons, commutations, and reprieves. Clemency applications are processed through the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney. This mass pardon is the second of its kind during Biden’s presidency, following a 2022 proclamation granting clemency to those convicted of simple marijuana possession.

Addressing Historic Wrongs

For many LGBTQ+ veterans, the impact of their convictions has been profound. Steve Marose, an Air Force veteran, faced a sodomy charge in the late 1980s and ultimately served two years in military prison. Reflecting on his experience, Marose said, “I thought my military life was over. But in that moment, I thought my life was over.”

Jocelyn Larkin, an attorney representing a group of LGBTQ+ veterans in a lawsuit against the Pentagon, welcomed Biden’s action as a “wonderful step forward” but emphasized that much more work remains to be done.

Political Implications

While this decision comes during Pride Month, it has not been without controversy. Some critics argue that the timing, just before the first presidential debate, could be seen as political theater. However, senior administration officials assert that the pardon aligns with Biden’s values and priorities, focusing on justice and inclusion.

Despite these concerns, the significance of this pardon cannot be overstated. By righting a historic wrong, President Biden is taking a crucial step toward acknowledging the sacrifices and struggles of LGBTQ+ service members. This decision not only provides a path to justice for those affected but also reinforces the administration’s commitment to fostering a climate of respect and dignity within the military.

The Bottom Line

The Biden administration’s actions reflect a broader effort to address past injustices and promote inclusivity within the armed forces. As veterans begin the process of applying for pardons and discharge upgrades, many hope that this decision will pave the way for a more just and equitable future for all service members, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

While there are valid concerns about the timing and potential political implications of this decision, the overall impact of President Biden’s pardon is undeniably positive. It represents a long-overdue acknowledgment of the bravery and sacrifices of LGBTQ+ service members who have faced discrimination simply for being themselves.

Transvitae Staff
Transvitae Staff
Staff Members of Transvitae here to assist you on your journey, wherever it leads you.


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