The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris administration remains steadfast in repealing policies from the Trump administration. This time, they repealed an executive order that almost entirely bans military service for people who identify as transgender. In addition, the now-extinct order prevented the use of military funds for sex “reassignment” surgeries.
This ban, which was in place for years, was revoked during Obama’s second administration and then was reversed by Donald Trump in 2017. During this last Republican administration, the ban denied the transition of new military recruits and allowed the military to discharge those currently serving if they did not present as their birth sex. However, the controversy is not new.
During the Obama administration former Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter removed the Pentagon’s ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military and stipulated that the Pentagon would cover the medical costs of military personnel who wanted to undergo a gender transition. According to an Axios report, it was in October 2016 that transgender troops can begin formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.
In June 2016, Obama’s undersecretary of defense weighed in on the new measure and said he believes it applies to both active-duty service members and academy personnel, despite attempts by officials to find loopholes.
The following year, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis granted military chiefs a six-month delay under the Obama-era July 1 deadline to determine enlistment guidelines for new transgender recruits.
In July 2017 Trump announced that transgender people will not be allowed to “serve in any capacity in the U.S. Armed Forces,” citing medical costs and “disruption.” A month later, the Administration formalized the ban. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Administration in Stone v. Trump on behalf of 6 transgender members of the military.
Court battles begin to rage until 2019, when the Supreme Court finally allowed the ban to proceed after two federal judges temporarily blocked it following an ACLU lawsuit.
Today’s repeal did not come out of the blue. During the confirmation hearing of now Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressed his support for this measure that would reverse what was done by the Trump Administration.
“If you are trained and you are qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, they should be allowed to serve and they can know that I will support them all the way,” said Biden’s Defense Secretary.
“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,” the White House stated.
Two things that stand out about Biden’s repeal are the numbers surrounding military service and transgender people, and the retroactive nature that the Democratic president stamped on his action.
Meanwhile, Biden has also ordered that military records be corrected if service members were discharged or denied reenlistment or even continued service because of their “gender identity.” This means that discharge cases will be reevaluated according to the Biden Administration’s new criteria.