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Updated Jun 26, 2024, 11:21am EDT
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Biden to right a ‘historic wrong’ by pardoning US military personnel convicted of homosexuality

Insights from The War Horse, USA Today, The New York Times, and Vox

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Anna Rose Layden/Reuters
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US President Joe Biden on Wednesday pardoned American veterans who were convicted under a military law that banned gay sex.

The move grants clemency to around 2,000 people charged under a code that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts between 1951 and 2013, before that section was repealed by Congress.

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In a statement Wednesday, the president said he was “righting an historic wrong,” adding that “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.”

Officials said the pardon will allow veterans to apply for benefits that may have been withheld.

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Biden’s pardon could ‘move the needle’ for many veterans

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Sources:  
History.com, The Guardian, The War Horse

The US military has a long history of discrimination toward LGBTQ+ personnel, and many veterans still carry the stigma of being outed as gay, The War Horse wrote. An attorney representing some of them told the outlet that Biden’s pardon could “move the needle in such a big way.” Homosexual people began being excluded from the military ranks in the mid-20th century, History.com wrote, though discrimination can also be traced back to the Revolutionary War. Sodomy in the military was made illegal and punishable by court-martial during World War I. The 1990s-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy allowed LGBTQ+ personnel to serve in the military as long as they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation, a measure revoked under President Barack Obama in 2010.

Biden’s view on LGBTQ+ rights has changed over career

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Sources:  
USA Today, The New York Times

Biden is considered the most LGBTQ+-friendly president in US history, USA Today wrote, charting his evolution on gay rights. His decisions as president, including an executive order on protecting LGBTQ+ people from employment discrimination and establishing new health protections for gay and transgender people — provisions the Trump administration eliminated — stand in contrast to the early days of his political career. In 1973, Biden had said homosexual people were “security risks,” and he often took stances that angered the community as a senator — like voting against same-sex marriage in 1996. The president’s change in views shows “the extent to which the Democratic Party has changed as it sought to keep pace with Americans,” The New York Times argued.

LGBTQ+ people likely to back Biden in 2024

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Sources:  
NBC News, Vox

While support for Biden from traditionally Democratic constituencies like Black, Latino, and young voters appears to be slipping, polling suggests that the LGBTQ+ community still prefers the incumbent president over Donald Trump ahead of the November election, NBC News wrote. But the picture is not clear-cut. More people than ever feel comfortable openly identifying as non-heterosexual, meaning identity could lose a central role in their political choices and their views could come to “resemble those of the public as a whole.” On the other hand, there’s a high chance the community will remain loyal to Democrats, thanks to a Republican Party that is “leaning into transphobia and against LGBTQ visibility in public life,” Vox added.

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