Biden Expected to Pardon Veterans Convicted of Having Gay Sex

President Biden is expected on Wednesday to pardon American veterans who were convicted of engaging in gay sex under a military code that outlawed the behavior for more than 60 years.

Mr. Biden’s proclamation would grant clemency to some 2,000 people who were charged between 1951 and 2013, addressing a “historic wrong,” as the president said in a statement the White House released ahead of the announcement.

“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,” Mr. Biden said in the statement. “Despite their courage and great sacrifice, thousands of L.G.B.T.Q.I.+ 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.”

The proclamation, which was reported earlier by CNN, addresses charges brought under Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a federal law that made it a crime to engage in “unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex,” even with mutual consent. In 2013, Congress voted to repeal the portion of the code that outlawed consensual sodomy.

Biden administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview the proclamation, said that people who wanted their convictions overturned could now apply online for a certificate of clemency, which could help them receive benefits that may have been denied. Before 2013, a conviction under Article 125 could entail a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of pay and allowances, according to military law.

With a certificate of clemency in hand, individuals could then start the process to have the terms of their discharges upgraded, officials said. They did not give a timeline for how long that process could take, or say whether additional resources would be dedicated to outreach for veterans who might not know they are eligible.

Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Biden has used his clemency powers largely to pardon nonviolent drug offenders. He has also issued pardons for marijuana use and possession on federal lands as part of a broader effort by his administration to address racial disparities in drug sentencing.

Mr. Biden said in his statement that Wednesday’s proclamation was “about dignity, decency and ensuring the culture of our armed forces reflect the values that make us an exceptional nation.”

Biden administration officials downplayed the idea that the president’s efforts were political because they were being carried out in an election year. Several officials did not give specifics when asked why Mr. Biden had decided to announce the pardons this week.

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