President Joe Biden spoke of 'patriotic transgender service members, who are once again able to proudly and openly serve their country.'
Following through on one of President Joe Biden's campaign promises, the administration was set to permanently rescind the Trump administration's ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. armed forces on Wednesday and issued new policies.
According to the Associated Press, the new regulations ban anti-trans discrimination and make it clear that transgender people don't have to hide their gender while serving their country.
Service members will be able to get transition-related care, and transgender people who were punished under the old policy will have their records reexamined.
The administration was to release the new policies on the International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day that celebrates the lives of transgender people.
Only a few days into his presidency, Biden signed an executive order telling the secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security to begin taking steps to reverse the ban. The order also immediately prohibited involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of service members' gender identity.
In the last year of the Obama administration, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had announced that transgender people would be able to serve openly.
However, in July 2017, while Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was on vacation, Donald Trump tweeted, "The United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."
Caught unawares by Trump's tweets, the Pentagon did not immediately take action. Responding to Trump, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement to top brass, "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance."
In August 2017, 56 retired generals and admirals criticized Trump's actions and said the ban "would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie."
Civil rights groups filed lawsuits challenging the policy. The issue wound its way through the courts, and in 2019 the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect.
A 2019 Gallup poll found 71% of Americans saying they supported transgender people serving openly in the military.
A report released last year by public policy research organization the Palm Center indicated that the ban on transgender people serving in the military harmed morale, unit cohesion, medical care, recruitment, good order and discipline, and service member retention. It also discouraged some educational institutions from promoting military service, making recruitment more difficult.
Reversing the policy was one of Biden's key promises to LGBTQ people during the 2020 campaign. He pledged to undo the policy in an interview with the Dallas Voice last year.
In an interview with the Dallas Voice in February 2020, Biden said, "I know that this is not just the right thing to do, but it’s in our national interest."
In October, Biden said he would make the Equality Act a "top legislative priority" in his first 100 days in office.
On Wednesday, as he made note of the change to military policy, Biden also advocated for the act's passage in a proclamation on the International Transgender Day of Visibility:
Today, we are proud to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility alongside barrier-breaking public servants, including the first openly transgender American to be confirmed by the United States Senate, and alongside patriotic transgender service members, who are once again able to proudly and openly serve their country. ... To more fully protect the civil rights of transgender Americans, we must pass the Equality Act and provide long overdue Federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act will deliver legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems. It will serve as a lasting legacy to the bravery and fortitude of the LGBTQ+ movement.
On day one of his presidency, Biden signed an executive order implementing the Supreme Court's 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County that included sexual orientation and gender identity in the definition of discrimination "on the basis of sex" across federal agencies.
And on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department announced it had formally scrapped a Trump administration report that human rights advocates said undermined LGBTQ rights abroad.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.