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President Biden Issues Pardon to LGBTQI+ Service Members Convicted Under Repealed Military Law

Updated: Jul 3



On June 26, 2024, President Biden issued an apology and a pardon to LGBTQI+ military service members with court-martial convictions for violations of former Article 125 of the U.S. Code of Military Justice (USCMJ). Article 125 was repealed in 2013.

 

The former law prohibited certain consensual acts of intimacy. The proclamation “is intended to remedy this past injustice and ensure we live up to our sacred obligation to care for all service members, Veterans, and their families,” said a Veterans Administration source. . The proclamation and pardon apply to qualifying court-martial convictions occurring between May 31, 1951, and December 26, 2013. 

 

The complete and unconditional pardon can remove restrictions against the right to vote, hold state or local office, or sit on a jury imposed because of the conviction. It also may be helpful in obtaining licenses, bonding, and employment. It may make it possible to receive certain education and healthcare benefits.

 

Advancing the Cause of Equality in the Military

 

President Joe Biden shared these thoughts:

 

Our Nation has made tremendous progress in advancing the cause of equality for LGBTQI+ Americans, including in the military. 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. Many of these patriotic Americans were subject to a court-martial. While my Administration has taken meaningful action to remedy these problems, the impact of that historical injustice remains. As Commander in Chief, I am committed to maintaining the finest fighting force in the world. That means making sure that every member of our military feels safe and respected.”

 

 

Next Steps for Veterans

 

Seek a Certificate of Pardon

 

Eligible veterans can file for a certificate of pardon by filing an Application for Certificate of Pardon Following Completion of Sentence form. With this document in hand, it may provide sufficient evidence of a probable material error or injustice, which could be used by the applicable Military Department or Coast Guard Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records to correct military records, including an upgrade or correction of a discharge characterization. 

 

Petition for a Change in Your Military Discharge

 

Individuals receiving a certificate of pardon are encouraged to promptly submit DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record along with sufficient evidence of the probable material error of justice, to the applicable Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records.

 

While a certificate of pardon does not automatically change your military discharge, the pardon may be a basis to petition for a change in your military discharge. A change in your discharge can lead to eligibility for benefits through your branch of service or from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

Following a successful request to the applicable Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records to change or upgrade a discharge characterization of service, you may be eligible for additional DOD, Coast Guard, or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits earned from your military service.

 

Veteran Benefits Based on Character of Discharge

 

The Veterans Administration (VA) encourages any person discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions who receives a pardon certificate to apply to their Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records for a correction or upgrade of your character of discharge status. A correction or upgrade by the corrections board may remove a barrier to VA benefits based on your character of discharge.

 

Importantly, the VA recently amended its regulations to provide benefits to more former Service members under a “compelling circumstances” exception. 

 

Additional Help for Veterans

 

The Department of Defense (DoD) has created a Presidential Pardon Resources webpage with additional information, answers to frequently asked questions, and an explanation of the process for applying for a certificate of pardon. The U.S. Coast Guard also has set up a Presidential Pardon Resources webpage to help veterans.


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