On Monday, Jan. 25, President Joe Biden signed an executive order reversing a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military, which was implemented by the Trump administration only three years ago.
“It is my conviction as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces that gender identity should not be a bar to military service,” Biden wrote in the text of the order. “Moreover, there is substantial evidence that allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military does not have any meaningful negative impact on the Armed Forces.”
Biden signed the order after meeting in the Oval Office with new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Vice President Harris. Prior to the signing, at his recent Senate confirmation hearing, Austin voiced his support for the measure.
“If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve, and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve,” he said.
Trump had originally ordered his ban on transgender troops via Twitter in July 2017.
“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Trump tweeted.
The move blindsided then-Defense Secretary James Mattis and the rest of Pentagon leadership, despite Trump’s indication that the decision was made with their input. When Trump attempted to make his ban official in a presidential memo a month later, he was blocked in federal courts, but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to go forward in January 2019.
Trump had stated that the military needed to focus on “decisive and overwhelming victory” as opposed to being burdened by the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” brought on transgender service members and their medical procedures. In contrast, the Obama administration had actually helped fund medical services for transgender troops and their transition process.
Aside from preventing the discharge or dismissal of servicemembers based on gender identity and fully repealing the two orders Trump signed barring transgender individuals from military service, Biden’s executive order will also direct the Department of Defense to correct the record of anyone dismissed from service for their gender identity. In addition, he ordered both the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security to oversee the process of allowing transgender servicemembers to serve openly.
Biden’s executive order earned commendation from LGBTQ+ activist groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
“For years, transgender patriots were forced to continue to hide their identity while serving in our military,” HRC’s president Alphonso David said in a statement. “But today, thanks to President Joe Biden, Secretary Lloyd Austin, and pro-equality voters across America, they may live and serve openly as themselves. The government will begin the process to eliminate an arbitrary and discriminatory executive action that has not only harmed transgender servicemembers but our entire military. The greatest military in the world will again value readiness over bias, and qualifications over discrimination.”