New US president issues an order reversing a Pentagon rule that had barred transgender people from military service.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Monday reversing a Trump administration policy that barred transgender individuals from serving in the United States 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,” the White House said in a statement announcing the order.
Incoming Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin supports lifting the ban. Biden met with Austin in the White House’s Oval Office on Monday prior to Austin’s ceremonial swearing-in.
“If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve,” Austin told a Senate panel last week.
Former President Donald Trump first ordered the ban on transgender individuals serving in the US military in 2017. The order was challenged in federal courts as discriminatory, revised by Trump in 2018 and eventually allowed to take effect by the US Supreme Court in January 2019.
Biden’s order revokes Trump’s directives and instructs the secretary of defence and the secretary of homeland security to implement the new policy throughout all branches of the military service – the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
The order bans involuntary separations, discharges and denials of re-enlistment on the basis of or relating to gender identity.
A 2016 US Defense Department study showed that allowing transgender people to serve would have a minimal effect on military readiness and healthcare costs, the White House said in a statement announcing the new policy.
The study also concluded that open transgender service had no significant impact on operational effectiveness or unit cohesion in foreign militaries.
Putting the new directive into effect will take time as the service branches unwind policies put in place under the Trump administration. Biden’s order requires the secretaries of defence and homeland security to report back on progress within 60 days.