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Biden Pardons LGBTQ+ Service Members Convicted for Sexual Orientation

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Today marks a historic step towards justice and equality as President Biden uses his clemency authority to pardon many former service members wrongly convicted under the former Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 125. This article criminalized sodomy between consenting adults between 1951 and 2013, until rewritten by Congress, and resulted in convictions of an estimated 2,000 individuals.

President Biden’s proclamation is a significant move in recognizing and righting the wrongs inflicted upon LGBTQ+ service members who faced discrimination and unjust convictions under policies such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). These brave individuals stood on the front lines of freedom, risking their lives to defend our country, only to be met with injustice at home.

To ensure that justice is served swiftly and effectively, we call upon the individual departments of the armed services to exercise their capacity to approve these pardons and subsequently approve their discharge upgrades en masse. We call upon individual departments to file requests for a group of individuals similarly harmed by a group injustice, thus streamlining the process and providing much-needed relief to affected veterans.

The consequences of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination have been far-reaching, causing moral injury, undue harm, and hardship to countless service members who served with honor and integrity. Many were discharged, court-martialed, or faced other punitive actions simply because of their sexual orientation. This policy deprived our military of talented and dedicated individuals, instilled institutional betrayal, deprived veterans of military benefits, and inflicted lasting trauma on those affected.

Modern Military, and our preceding organization’s – OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (OS-SLDN) – advocacy against DADT has always been rooted in the belief that every individual deserves to serve their country without fear of discrimination or retribution. The impact of these pardons, once fully realized, will help restore the honor and dignity of those unjustly convicted. It is a step towards healing and reconciliation, ensuring that all service members are treated with the respect and recognition they deserve.

Modern Military remains hopeful for the future, envisioning an armed services culture that truly reflects our nation’s values of equality, justice, and respect for all individuals. Today’s announcement is a pivotal step in that direction, and we will continue to advocate for policies and actions that support and uplift every member of our military community.

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Modern Military is the nation’s largest organization of LGBTQ+ service members, military spouses, veterans, their families, and allies. Modern Military educates, advocates, and champions the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ service members, veterans, and their families as well as people living with HIV. We envision an inclusive and equitable military environment where every member of the LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive community is respected, valued, and empowered to thrive.

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