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US President Joe Biden pardons military personal convicted under gay sex ban

This week US President Joe Biden said he would use his clemency powers to pardon all US service personnel who had been convicted of crimes because of their sexuality or gender identity.

From 1951 until 2013 the Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalised sodomy, which lead to thousands of army, navy and air force personnel being dishonourably discharged from the armed forces. The rules also affected members of the US Coast Guard.

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“I am righting an historic wrong by using my clemency authority to pardon many former service members who were convicted simply for being themselves.” President Biden said on 26th June.

“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. Some of these patriotic Americans were subject to court-martial, and have carried the burden of this great injustice for decades. “

“This is about dignity, decency, and ensuring the culture of our Armed Forces reflect the values that make us an exceptional nation.

“We have a sacred obligation to all of our service members – including our brave LGBTQI+ service members: 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.” President Biden said.

It is estimated that the pardon will apply to around 2,000 former service members. If the former fighting men and women’s status is changed, they may be eligible for military pensions and support.

While President Barack Obama removed the provisions against LGBT people serving in the armed forces in 2011, for many years the US followed the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.

Under the policy, which was introduced by President Bill Clinton in 1993, gay and lesbian people could officially not serve in the military, and those serving could not disclose that they were same sex attracted. Superior officers could not actively search for gay members within their ranks.

Studies have suggested 100,000 people were discharged during this period.

 

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