Obama pardons Atlanta vet jailed for being gay

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A metro Atlanta man who served a year in prison for having a gay relationship while in the Army in the late 1980s was pardoned by President Obama on Tuesday.

Peter Heidgerd, a 56-year-old landscaper who lives in East Point, screamed when he was told about the pardon, according to the AJC.

Heidgerd’s reaction to the pardon was low-key … sort of. He heard the news from his attorney, who called while Heidgerd was at his landscaping job.

“I have to put the phone down for one second,” Heidgerd quietly said to his lawyer.

“Then I heard him scream,” Clark said.

Heidgerd told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I didn’t let this whole thing get me down. I didn’t need a president to pardon me, but this helps.”

Heidgerd told the media outlet that he didn't grow bitter over the nearly 30 years since he was convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer, a felony, and placed in Fort Leavenworth for the relationship with another soldier. Heidgerd was an officer in the Army stationed at Fort Gordon near Augusta when he was convicted on July 17, 1989.

Via the AJC:

He said he’s not bitter, though he recognizes the loss to his career.

His faith in Jesus Christ is strong.

“I’ve never arrived. I’ve never been allowed to arrive,” Heidgerd said. “But I have been the person I wanted to be. … I knew whatever I was as a person that I needed to love me and be me.”

Heidgerd was released from prison in 1990 but faced a record with a felony conviction, which damaged his ability to find employment. While the presidential pardon erases his conviction, it's not yet clear if it will change his dishonorable discharge.

In 2010, Obama signed legislation repealing the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” ban on openly gay servicemembers as gay Atlanta veterans watched and celebrated. The repeal took effect in 2011.

In 2015, the first openly gay general in the U.S. Army joined the command staff of Fort Benning in Columbus.

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