President Joe Biden’s choice for Defense Secretary has gotten his first round of Congress’s approval. And even better, he’s in support of trans troops!
As CNN reports, both chambers of Congress approved a waiver to permit retired General Lloyd Austin to serve as Secretary of Defense in the Biden administration. Austin, who retired in 2016, had to be granted a waiver from a law requiring that a defense secretary wait seven years after active-duty service before becoming Defense Secretary.
This decision makes Austin’s appointment historic in two ways: Austin is now the first African-American to run the department and he’s the third person to get this waiver. In a way, this means that Lloyd needs to be approved for the waiver and then for the Senate to approve of him for the position.
“If confirmed, I will carry out the mission of the Department of Defense, always with the goal to deter war and ensure our nation’s security, and I will uphold the principle of civilian control of the military, as intended,” Austin said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon.
“I understand and respect the reservations some of you have expressed about having another recently retired general at the head of the Department of Defense,” he added. “The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil.”
For LGBTQ people, it’s also reassuring to know that Lloyd Austin is in support of transgender troops. In the early years of the Trump Administration, a ban was placed on the U.S. military. Trump tweeted out an announcement for the policy in 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 US Military,” he wrote. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
When asked by senator Kirsten Gillibrand about his thoughts on the transphobic policy, Austin said, “I support the president’s plan to overturn the ban.”
“I truly believe … that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards you should be allowed to serve,” he added. “And you can expect that I will support that throughout.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says she will work with colleagues on legislation giving U.S. troops the same legal protections against discrimination as civilian employees, a move advocates say could be a game-changer for minorities in America’s armed forces https://t.co/OQyjsy6pBz
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 19, 2021
After the hearing, Gillibrand released a statement: “After years of fighting to overturn the ban on open transgender military service, we welcome and applaud Mr Austin’s support for overturning the discriminatory prohibition on transgender people serving in our military.”
“Individuals who are willing to put on the uniform of our country and risk their lives to defend our freedoms should be received with commendation, not prejudice,” she continued. “We are proud that our armed services will once again embrace the principle that anyone who can meet the military’s standard should be allowed to serve, regardless of gender identity.”