President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order that overturned a controversial ban by his predecessor on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military, a move that fulfills a campaign promise and will be cheered by LGBTQ advocates.
Flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, Biden signed the executive order in the Oval Office.
“It’s simple: America is safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride,” Biden said on Twitter after the signing.
Former Democratic President Barack Obama in 2016 allowed trans people to serve openly and receive medical care to transition genders, but Republican President Donald Trump froze their recruitment while allowing serving personnel to remain.
When Trump announced the ban in 2017 on Twitter, he said the military needed to focus on “decisive and overwhelming victory” without being burdened by the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of having transgender personnel.
A November 2020 report by the LGBT-rights think tank the Palm Center co-written by former military Surgeons General said the transgender ban had hurt military readiness.
During his confirmation hearing, Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon, Retired Army General Lloyd Austin, said he supported overturning the ban.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump transgender policy of 2019 could stand while it faces separate lawsuits in lower courts.
About 1.3 million active personnel serve in the U.S. military, Department of Defense data shows. There are no official figures on the number of trans members but the Rand Corp, a U.S. policy research institute, estimated in 2016 about 2,450 active service members were transgender.