Biden pardoning service members convicted under law that banned gay sex

FILE - U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at an event in the East Room at the White House on June 18, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden is pardoning potentially thousands of former U.S. service members convicted of violating a now-repealed military ban on consensual gay sex.

The president says he is "righting an historic wrong" to clear the way for these service members to regain lost benefits. 

Biden’s action grants a pardon to those who were convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s former Article 125, which criminalized sodomy. 

The law had been on the books since 1951 but was rewritten in 2013 to prohibit only forcible acts. 

Those covered by the pardon will be able to apply to receive proof that their conviction has been erased, petition to have their discharges from the military upgraded and move to recover lost pay and benefits.

The White House estimates that several thousand service members will be covered — the majority convicted before the military instituted the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy in 1993 that eased the way for LGBTQ troops to serve if they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation. That policy was repealed in 2011, when Congress allowed for their open service in the military.

RELATED: Military veteran comes out as gay in viral obituary: 'I was afraid'

The president is exercising his pardon powers during Pride Month. 

He is working to rally support within the Democratic-leaning LGBTQ community ahead of the presidential election.

Biden has issued two other categorical pardons in 2022 and 2023 involving those convicted federally for possessing marijuana. 

This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.