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Presidential Proclamation on Certain Violations of Article 125 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice

On June 26, 2024, President Biden issued a proclamation that gave a full and unconditional pardon to individuals with court-martial convictions under former Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for conduct that involved consensual, private acts with persons aged 18 or older. It also pardoned individuals convicted of attempts, conspiracies, and solicitation to commit a qualifying Article 125 offense under Articles 80, 81, and 82. The pardon recognizes that many LGBTQI+ individuals who have served our country left the military on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity, some after court-martial conviction for former Article 125 offenses, which criminalized even consensual acts of sodomy. The proclamation helps to address this historical injustice against service members and their families.

http://www.defense.gov/Spotlights/Presidential-Pardon-Resources/

Pardon Proclamation and Effect of Pardon

A1.  Throughout our Nation’s history LGBTQI+ service members have stood on the frontlines of freedom – risking their lives in order to defend us. Despite their great sacrifice, and because of past policies including Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, tens of thousands of them were discharged or left the military on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some were subject to trial by court-martial for violations of the former Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which criminalized sodomy, including consensual acts of intimacy. Although consensual sodomy was repealed as a military offense in 2013, the consequences of those convictions remain. This pardon proclamation is intended to remedy this past historical injustice and ensure we live up to our sacred obligation to care for all service members, veterans, and their families.

A2.  A presidential pardon by proclamation is a way for a president to grant clemency to a defined group of people. The pardon is effective as of the date of the proclamation for individuals who fall within the defined group. An individual seeking a pardon through the proclamation should apply for a certificate of pardon. A certificate of pardon will help that person obtain the full benefits of the pardon.

A3.  The President’s June 26, 2024 proclamation grants a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to individuals with court-martial convictions for violations of former Article 125 of the UCMJ based on conduct that involved consensual, private conduct with persons age 18 and older. Individuals convicted of attempts, conspiracies, and solicitation to commit qualifying former Article 125 offenses under Articles 80, 81, and 82 of the UCMJ are also pardoned. The proclamation applies to qualifying court-martial convictions occurring between May 31, 1951, and December 26, 2013. An individual must not have engaged in the conduct contained in the exceptions listed in the June 26 proclamation.

A4.  Individuals with court-martial convictions for violations of former Article 125, UCMJ, or attempts, conspiracies, or solicitations, where the conduct involved consensual, private conduct with persons age 18 and older are eligible for a certificate of pardon under the proclamation. An individual must not have engaged in the conduct contained in the exceptions listed in the June 26 proclamation.

A5.  The factors making someone ineligible include:

  • conduct by a person in a position of special trust with a military recruit or trainee or an individual who, because of status, might not have felt able to refuse consent;
  • conduct by the individual constituting fraternization (i.e., conduct by a commissioned or warrant officer that is in violation of a custom of the service in a manner that is prejudicial to good order and discipline or service discrediting);
  • acts with an individual who had not reached 18 years of age;
  • conduct constituting prostitution;
  • conduct involving forcible sodomy or bestiality;
  • acts that occurred at a location where intimate activity was prohibited;
  • conduct in violation of a lawful order; or
  • acts committed with the spouse of a different military service member.

A6.  The issuance of the June 26, 2024 proclamation technically pardoned all people covered by its terms. Someone who meets the criteria in the proclamation is therefore technically pardoned as of June 26, 2024. The Military Department under which a person served (or, in the case of Coast Guard veterans, the Department of Homeland Security) will verify through a review of military records that a person qualifies for the pardon. Pardoned persons will then receive proof from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney that they were pardoned, which can help them to achieve the full benefits of the pardon.

The full benefits of pardon could include removing restrictions imposed because of the conviction, such as, voting, holding state or local office, or serving on a jury. It may also be helpful in obtaining licenses, bonding, or employment.

A7.  No. Expungement is a judicial remedy that cannot be granted by a presidential pardon. Both the conviction and the pardon would appear on the person’s record.

A8.  No. However, a certificate of pardon may provide sufficient evidence of a probable material error or injustice, which could be used by the applicable Military Department or Coast Guard Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records to correct military records, including an upgrade or correction of a discharge characterization. Individuals receiving a certificate of pardon are encouraged to promptly submit DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record along with sufficient evidence of the probable material error of justice, to the applicable Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records.

Application Process for Certificate of Pardon

A9.  You can apply for a certificate of pardon under this proclamation by completing an Application for Pardon After Completion of Sentence following these instructions:

How to Begin: Filling out and submitting the application is the first step in requesting a certificate of pardon based on the President’s June 26, 2024 proclamation pardoning individuals convicted of certain offenses under former Article 125, Uniform Code of Military Justice. You will be asked to share details about yourself and information about your conviction.

Information Required: Please complete only the blocks indicated below on the Application for Pardon After Completion of Sentence. While not required, including any case documents regarding your conviction may expedite the processing of your application.

  • Pages 6-7 (Block A): Required - Complete sections a. – d. only
  • Page 8 (Block B): Not required
  • Page 9 (Block C): Not required
  • Page 10 (Block D): Not required
  • Page 11 (Block E): Not required
  • Page 11 (Block F): Required - Description of military service not required; Attach DD Form 214, if available
  • Page 12 (Block G): Not required
  • Page 13 (Block H): Not required
  • Page 14 (Block I): Not required
  • Pages 15-17 (Block J): Required - Complete section a. only
  • Page 18 (Block K): Required
  • Page 19 (Block L): Not required
  • Pages 20-22 (Block M): Not required
  • Page 23 (Block N): Required - Submit applications to the Military Department or Coast Guard address in Part 2

Submit Your Application: Submit your application to the Military Department of which you were a member when you were court-martialed or, if you were a member of the Coast Guard, to the Coast Guard:

  • U.S. Army

Office of The Judge Advocate General
ATTN: Criminal Law Division, (DAJA-CL)
2200 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310

usarmy.pentagon.hqda-otjag.list.cld-ops-army-executive-pardons@army.mil 

  • U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps

Office of the Judge Advocate General
Criminal Law Division (Code 20)
1254 Charles Morris Street S.E., Suite B01
Washington Navy Yard, D.C. 20374

NavyPardonRequests@us.navy.mil

  • U.S. Air Force

Office of the Judge Advocate General Attention: AF/JAJI
1500 W. Perimeter Road, Suite 1300
Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, MD 20762

AF.JAJIWorkflow@us.af.mil

  • U.S. Coast Guard

Commandant (CG-LMJ)
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2703 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE
Washington, DC 20032

HQS-DG-LST-CG-LMJ@uscg.mil

A10.  No. You are only required to complete the application. The application and instructions are available on www.defense.gov. You may, but are not required to, submit additional documents related to your court-martial conviction. The applicable Department will use the information provided in your pardon application to obtain your relevant court-martial and military service records, where such records are available.

A11.  After receiving an application, the relevant Military Department (or, for Coast Guard cases, the Department of Homeland Security) will review the applicant’s court-martial and military service records to determine whether the individual is covered by the President’s June 26, 2024 pardon proclamation. If the relevant Department determines the applicant satisfies the criteria in the proclamation, the Department will submit that determination to the Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney. The Pardon Attorney will then issue a certificate of pardon to eligible applicants.

A12.  If the applicant does not meet the pardon proclamation criteria, the Pardon Attorney will notify the applicant that a certificate of pardon will not be issued. Individuals who are not eligible for a pardon by proclamation may submit a complete Department of Justice Application for Pardon After Completion of Sentence for review in the ordinary pardon process.

A13.  You should contact the Department where you submitted your application regarding any inquiries about the status of your application. Contact information for these offices is located in response to Question 9 Above.

A14.  Applications for a certificate of pardon will be processed by the relevant Department, and the Pardon Attorney will issue certificates, as quickly as possible. However, following receipt of an application, the relevant Department needs to retrieve, where available, and review your court-martial and military service records to determine whether the individual is covered by the President’s June 26, 2024 pardon proclamation. This process may take as long as several months to complete.

You can expedite the processing of your application by providing an email address to contact you, and including any case documents you may still have about your conviction. You may submit your application by mail but doing so may delay the process.

The more complete your application is upon initial submission, the faster the relevant Department can process your request.

If you do not, or cannot, provide all information requested in the application, the relevant Department may need to conduct additional review, delaying the process. This review may include contacting you to collect additional personally identifying information. Providing your email address or that of a trusted contact for follow-up questions will help process your request faster.

A15.  If the relevant Department determines that you satisfy the criteria in the President’s June 26, 2024 proclamation, the Department will submit that determination to the U.S. Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney. The Pardon Attorney will then issue a certificate of pardon to you.

A16.  If the relevant Department determines that you did not satisfy the criteria in the President’s June 26, 2024 proclamation, the Department will submit that determination to the Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney. The Pardon Attorney will notify you if you do not meet the eligibility criteria for issuance of a pardon certificate under this proclamation. In that case, you are encouraged to submit a complete Department of Justice Application for Pardon After Completion of Sentence, for review in the ordinary pardon process.

A17.  Please keep the certificate of pardon. In addition to the notation on your criminal record, it is the only documentation you will receive that you were pardoned by the June 26, 2024 proclamation.

VA Benefits and Boards for the Correction of Military/Naval Records

A18.  No. A certificate of pardon does not automatically change your military discharge, including the characterization of service. However, the pardon may be a basis to petition for a change in your military discharge which, in turn, can lead to eligibility for benefits.

A19.  Because a certificate of pardon does not automatically change your military discharge, including the characterization of service, if you receive a certificate of pardon, you should apply to your respective Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records to correct their military records. You should submit DD Form 149, Application for Correction of Military Record, along with sufficient evidence of the probable material error or injustice, such as your certificate of pardon, to the applicable board. 

A20.  The Pardon Attorney will notify you if you do not meet the eligibility criteria for issuance of a pardon certificate under this proclamation. You are welcome to submit a complete Department of Justice Application for Pardon After Completion of Sentence, for review in the ordinary pardon process.

A21.  If you have a court-martial conviction but do not meet the eligibility criteria for issuance of a pardon certificate under this proclamation, you are encouraged to submit a complete Application for Pardon After Completion of Sentence to the Department of Justice for review in the ordinary pardon process.

A pardon does not automatically change the character of a military discharge, although proof of a pardon can be presented as evidence in the review of your request to have a discharge upgraded or changed.

A22.  Following a successful request to the applicable Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records to change or upgrade a discharge characterization of service, you may be eligible for additional DoD, Coast Guard, or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits earned during periods of military service.

VA examines the “character of discharge” to determine whether a person meets the basic eligibility requirements for receipt of VA benefits under title 38 of the United States Code. A pardon does not change your character of discharge and VA cannot change your character of discharge.

VA encourages any person discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions who receives a pardon certificate to apply to their Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records for a correction or upgrade of your character of discharge status. A correction or upgrade by the corrections board may remove a barrier to VA benefits based on your character of discharge.

In addition, VA recently amended its regulations to provide benefits to more former Service members under a “compelling circumstances” exception. The exception does not eliminate the need to seek an upgraded discharge from the Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records, but may help remove other possible barriers to basic eligibility for VA benefits in some cases. More information on character of discharge and VA benefits can be found at: https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/character_of_discharge.asp

 

Updated July 12, 2024