The president said he is righting a “historic wrong” stemming from a repealed law banning same-sex relationships in the military.

President Joe Biden issued a pardon that could benefit thousands of former members of the armed forces convicted of violating the military’s now-repealed ban on consensual homosexual relations, and said Wednesday he is “righting a historic wrong” to pave the way for them to regain lost benefits.

Biden’s move grants pardon to soldiers convicted on the basis of the former Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which criminalized sodomy. The rule, which had been in effect since 1951, was rewritten in 2013 to prohibit only forcible intercourse.

Those covered by the pardon will be able to request proof that their conviction has been overturned, ask for their military leave to be upgraded and claim back pay and benefits lost.

“I am righting a historic wrong by using my clemency authority to pardon many former military members who were convicted simply for being themselves,” Biden said in a statement. “We have a sacred obligation to all of our soldiers, including our brave LGBTQI+ soldiers: 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 direction.”

The use of the presidential pardon coincides with Pride month and comes days before a high-profile fundraiser with LGBTQ donors to be held Friday in New York. Biden is trying to rally support within the Democratic-leaning community ahead of the November presidential election.

Government officials declined to explain why Biden did not act sooner on the pardons.

This is the third blanket pardon granted by Biden based on his authority to cover a broad group of people convicted of particular crimes, following those in 2022 and 2023 that affected people with federal convictions for marijuana possession.


The White House estimates that several thousand military personnel will be eligible for the measure – most convicted before the military instituted the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) policy in 1993, which made it easier for LGBTQ people to enter the military if they did not disclose their sexual orientation. This policy was repealed in 2011, when Congress allowed openly gay people into the military.

Military members convicted of non-consensual acts are not covered by Biden’s pardon. And those convicted of other articles of the military justice code, which may have been used as a pretext to punish or force LGBTQ people to leave, will have to apply for clemency through the Justice Department’s usual pardon process.

Biden had already directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to try to provide more benefits to military members who were not honorably discharged because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status.

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