President Joe Biden has signed an executive order repealing Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military.
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” read a statement from the White House.
“Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force,”
“Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest.”
In addition to reversing Trump’s ban on transgender service members, Biden’s executive order requires corrections to the record of any soldier affected by the ban.
Today, I repealed the discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military. It’s simple: America is safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride.
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 25, 2021
President Biden fulfilled another crucial pledge, repealing the transgender military ban to ensure everyone who’s qualified to serve in the military can do so openly and free from discrimination. pic.twitter.com/b24PHI9OII
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 25, 2021
Trump’s policy, announced via tweet in July 2017, prohibited openly trans recruits from signing up to serve.
The ban also affected trans military service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria except under three circumstance: if they have not had gender dysphoria for 36 months, if they have been diagnosed after entering service but do not need to transition gender, or if they are currently serving troops who came out and are receiving treatment since the ban on their service was first lifted in 2016.
Related: Biden Signs Expansive LGBTQ Protections Executive Order
The policy was the result of a bungled negotiation with a group of House Republicans.
In his tweets, Trump cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption” as the reasons for the ban. The House GOPers had threatened to block funding of Trump’s Mexico border wall if he didn’t prohibit the U.S. military from paying for or supplying healthcare for trans service members.
Trump took the request further and banned trans military members altogether.
A senior House Republican aide told Politico at the time, “This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire.”
But it was never really about the money. A study from the Rand Corporation estimated the cost of medical services for transgender individuals in the military at $2.4 million and $8.4 million out of a $6.2 billion medical budget for the military.
Over 20 retired generals and admirals denounced the policy saying the ban was “a troubling move backward.”
Caught off-guard by Trump’s announcement, defense officials at the Pentagon tried to slow implementation of the ban. Trump wanted the policy to take effect in February 2018, but then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered further study of the policy – it had already been studied by the Obama administration – and it did not go into effect until April 2019.
BREAKING: President Biden has ended the ban on transgender military service set in place under the Trump administration.
A grateful nation salutes all who have served and hoped for this moment.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) January 25, 2021
Biden mentioned his plan to restore Obama-era protections for trans military service members often on the campaign trail. And Biden’s new Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin III, announced his support for the policy change during his Senate confirmation hearing last week.
“I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve,” said Austin. “And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”
A Gallup poll conducted in June 2019 showed 71% of Americans support allowing transgender Americans to openly serve in the military.
The National Center for Transgender Equality praised the news issuing a statement which read, in part:
“We knew that when President Biden was elected that transgender people would have a friend and ally in the White House. The new president has made clear his agenda for ensuring that transgender Americans are treated fairly and with respect, and that we are able to live our lives without fear of discrimination.
“This is the start of a new era for the estimated 15,000 transgender Americans who serve in the US military. But it also marks a brighter future for all of us committed to ending discrimination.”
Today’s action follows Biden’s executive order signed his first day in office which directed all federal agencies to fully implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law.
BREAKING: President Joe Biden has repealed the transgender military ban.
This is an incredible victory for our clients and sends a message that transgender people not only belong in our armed services, but in our country.
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 25, 2021
Trump weakened our military by discriminating against transgender service members—That ends today.
Allowing transgender troops—our best and brightest—to serve again, strengthens our military and helps re-unite our nation.
Thank you, @POTUS @JoeBiden#OpenService #TransBanRepeal pic.twitter.com/nFdpn3PWJi
— VoteVets (@votevets) January 25, 2021