Biden Grants Presidential Pardon to Former Military Personnel Convicted for Homosexuality

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Biden Grants Presidential Pardon to Former Military Personnel Convicted for Homosexuality

A Measure to Correct a Historical Injustice

On June 26, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a presidential pardon for former U.S. military personnel and Coast Guardsmen who were discharged from the armed forces due to their homosexuality. The objective of this decision is to “correct a historical wrong.” Until 2013, Article 125 of the Military Justice Code considered sodomy and oral sex between consenting adults as crimes punishable by court-martial. The presidential pardon applies to military personnel convicted of homosexuality between 1951 and 2013. Joe Biden also intends to extend this pardon to all discriminated LGBTQI+ military personnel.

In 2017, Donald Trump banned transgender individuals from serving in the military, a decision that Joe Biden reversed shortly after taking office. “Despite their courage and sacrifice, thousands of LGBT+ military personnel have been excluded from the military due to their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the president stated in a press release. He aims to “ensure that the culture of our armed forces reflects the values that make us an exceptional nation.”

Revisiting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy

Until 1994, LGBTQI+ individuals were excluded from the U.S. military. That year, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was implemented, which was repealed in 2011 by President Barack Obama. This policy forced queer military personnel to hide their sexual orientation in order to serve. In 2023, the Department of Defense launched an initiative to identify former military personnel discharged under this policy who might have suffered financial losses or faced employment obstacles. Between 1980 and 2011, 35,801 LGBTQI+ soldiers were reportedly discharged from the military due to this policy or Article 125.

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Pre-Election Context and LGBTQI+ Issues

Joe Biden’s decision comes in a tense pre-election context in the United States, where he is neck and neck with Donald Trump in the polls. During Pride Month, Biden has increased his gestures toward LGBTQI+ voters, facing a potential decline in their support. According to NBC News, a survey conducted in January by the LGBTQI+ association Glaad indicates that 68% of LGBTQI+ voters plan to vote for Biden, compared to 15% for Trump.

In the United States, LGBTQI+ issues are central to the debates. In October, one month before the presidential election, the Supreme Court is set to review a challenge against the ban on care for trans minors imposed by several Republican states.

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