US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order scrapping Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the US military, saying an “inclusive” force strengthens the country’s national security.
“All Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve,” the White House said in a statement this morning.
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity.
“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.”
It cited a 2016 study commissioned by the Department of Defence, which found that allowing openly transgender people to serve had “no significant impact on operational effectiveness or unit cohesion” in other countries’ militaries.
Mr Biden’s executive order immediately prohibits involuntary separations, discharges and denials of re-enlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity.
It also directs officials to identify the records of service members who were discharged or denied re-enlistment based on their gender identity.
“The President has directed the Secretary of Defence and Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard, after consultation with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to take all necessary steps to ensure that all directives, orders, regulations and policies of their respective departments are consistent with this order,” said the White House.
“Simply put, transgender service members will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity; transgender service members can serve in their gender when transition is complete.
“Transgender service members should know that they are accepted throughout the US military.”
Mr Biden has directed the secretaries of the Defence and Homeland Security departments to give him a report on their progress implementing his directions within 60 days.
Reversing the ban was one of the President’s campaign promises, though he had pledged to do it on “day one”.
Mr Biden was joined by his newly confirmed Defence Secretary, General Lloyd Austin, in the Oval Office as he signed the order.
“I fully support the President’s direction that all transgender individuals who wish to serve in the United States military and can meet the appropriate standards shall be able to do so openly and free from discrimination,” Gen Austin said in a statement.
“The department will immediately take appropriate policy action to ensure individuals who identify as transgender are eligible to enter and serve in their self-identified gender.
“This revised policy will also ensure all medically necessary transition related care authorised by law is available to all service members, and will re-examine all cases of transgender service members that may be in some form of adverse administrative proceedings.
“The United States Armed Forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent our fellow citizens.
“I also believe that we should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and devotion to serve in uniform.
“This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.”
In 2017, Mr Trump announced that the US government would “not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military”.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender (people) in the military would entail,” he said at the time, on Twitter.
The Defence Department went on to impose rules which technically allowed transgender individuals to serve, but only if they had not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, had not transitioned, were not going to transition, and would comply with grooming requirements.
In practice, critics said, it worked as a full ban.