Joe Biden Removes Donald Trump’s Ban on Transgender Military Members

"All Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve," the order says

US President Joe Biden
Joe Biden. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden overturned Donald Trump's 2018 ban on military members who are transgender, issuing an executive order on Monday declaring that "all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve."

"It is my conviction as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces that gender identity should not be a bar to military service," Biden's executive order reads. "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."

The policy cites a 2016 study requested by the Department of Defense which found that "enabling transgender individuals to serve openly in the United States military would have only a minimal impact on military readiness and healthcare costs" and "no significant impact on operational effectiveness or unit cohesion in foreign militaries."

The Trump administration's policy on banning transgender individuals from serving in the military came three years after the Obama administration said people of any gender identity could serve openly and have access to gender-affirming medical and psychological care.

Trump, 74, announced his policy via Twitter in 2019, writing his belief was that the military "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

Under the Trump-era policy, transgender individuals who had already been serving in the military would be able to continue to. But those who had gender dysphoria or had undergone a gender transition were not allowed to newly enlist after the policy went into effect.

Biden, 78, reversed the Trump-era policy Monday, signing a document around noon in the Oval Office. The president told reporters the order was "reinstating a position that previous commanders and ... secretaries [of Defense] have supported."

"And what I'm doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform, and essentially restoring the situation as it existed before, with transgender personnel, if qualified in every other way, can serve their government in the United States military," Biden added.

Biden's defense secretary, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, voiced his support for getting rid of the ban when asked about it during his Senate confirmation hearing last week.

"I support the president's plan to overturn the ban. I truly believe ... that if you are fit and you're qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve," Austin said. "And you can expect that I will support that throughout."

Equal rights groups saluted the Biden's decision to roll back the controversial Trump policy.

"For years, transgender patriots were forced to continue to hide their identity while serving in our military," Human Rights campaign 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."

David added: "The government will begin the process to eliminate an arbitrary and discriminatory executive action that has not only harmed transgender service members but our entire military. The greatest military in the world will again value readiness over bias, and qualifications over discrimination."

The ACLU echoed those remarks, calling Biden's executive order "and incredible victory," which "sends a message that transgender people not only belong in our armed services, but in our country."

Less than one week into his term, Biden has already signed a slew of executive orders, many of them reversing controversial Trump-era policies.

On his first full day in office, Biden signed more than a dozen orders, including one rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement designed to mitigate catastrophic global warming that Trump pulled the U.S. out of in 2017.

Among Biden's first set of executive orders was one calling for an end to discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

"Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports," the executive order reads. "Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination."

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