News (USA)

This gay veteran spent 2 years in jail because he had sex. He can finally get a pardon.

Steve Marose
Steve Marose Photo: Screenshot/BBC

Reports from Steve Marose’s time in the Air Force described him as an “efficient, enthusiastic and innovative leader whose proposals saved the Air Force time and money,” according to an old article from the 90s in The Seattle Times.

Marose, however, was also a gay man. At the age of twenty-four, he was kicked out of the Air Force, put on trial, convicted, and jailed for breaking Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which bans sodomy.

As of yesterday, Marose is one of the many LGBTQ+ veterans who is eligible for a pardon by President Joe Biden, clearing them of less-than-honorable and dishonorable discharges, or in Marose’s case, a criminal conviction.

President Biden granting clemency will impact an estimated 2,000 veterans, but the change won’t be immediate. The pardon doesn’t automatically change their records. Instead, it enables queer veterans to apply for a certificate of pardon, so they can get their discharge status changed.

And for veterans like Marose, the damage is already done. “I can pretend that ‘Oh, I’m resilient,’ you know, ‘I got this,’ but in the end, it’s trauma,” Marose told the BBC.

After the military found out that Marose was gay, he was put on trial.

“I had to stand up in court and give intimate, gory details of everything that happened – scientific names of parts, where they went, and to what point. All this in front of my friends. I started to cry, not over what I did, but of having to describe it in front of other people. I felt like dirt,” Marose said. Although two supervisors testified in his favor, it was to no avail.

Marose was convicted and sent to jail for almost two years. When he got out, he had a felony on his record. He was unable to travel, get certain jobs and had to pay back his college fees to the military.

“They do background checks every time I’ve changed jobs, and I have to dig it all up again and show them this is what it was, this is what the charges were, this is the outcome. It kind of just hangs over me in that regard,” Marose said.

“I can’t get into Canada because they don’t care what your conviction is,” Marose said.

CBS News report reports that an estimated 100,000 LGBTQ+ military members were discharged for their sexuality between World War II and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“We have a sacred obligation to all of our service members – including our brave LGBTQ+ 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,” Biden said in the statement announcing that the pardon. He said he was “righting a historic wrong.”

“I’m just glad the day has come,” said Marose, after saying that Biden could have done this three years ago.

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