President Joe Biden is issuing a proclamation pardoning thousands of U.S. veterans who were convicted under a military law that banned gay sex, making them eligible to apply for previously withheld benefits.
In a statement early Wednesday announcing the clemency actions, Biden said he was "righting an historic wrong" to pardon former service members "who were convicted simply for being themselves."
The ban held for more than six decades until Congress in 2013 amended the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 125, which had criminalized consensual sodomy, after the repeal of "donít ask donít tell."
"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," Biden said.
Military outcasts: The Army made her plead guilty or face prison for being gay. Sheís still paying the price.
Affected veterans will automatically receive a pardon. But to receive care and previously withheld benefits, individual service members will have to provide proof they qualify, a senior administration official said.
Once they have a certificate of pardon, they can apply to have their discharge characterization changed, the official said. The specific details of the process will be available on the Defense Department website, and information will be provided to veterans by the Justice Department.
The Biden administration estimates that thousands of people were convicted under Article 125 before it was rewritten by Congress. Officials were unable to say how many might seek benefits, how long the application process would take or how the administration plans to reach reach veterans experiencing homelessness.
Biden said in a statement that he is "committed to maintaining the finest fighting force in the world," and that includes making sure that "every member of our military is safe and respected."
"This is about dignity, decency, and ensuring the culture of our Armed Forces reflect the values that make us an exceptional nation," Biden said.

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