Washington — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday revoking a presidential memorandum from former President Donald Trump that disqualified most transgender individuals from military service, reversing the controversial policy inin his first week in office.
Mr. Biden's executive order directs the secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security to implement his order and immediately prohibits denying a military member from continuing to serve based on gender identity, according to a fact sheet from the White House. It also requires a progress report from those same secretaries in 60 days.
"What I'm doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform," Mr. Biden told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday.
When Mr. Trump first announced his transgender service ban in 2017, he said the military needed to focus on "decisive and overwhelming victory" and not be weighed down by "tremendous medical costs and disruption" of transgender service members and medical procedures. The, and excluded individuals from serving if they did not remain their biological sex at birth. The Obama administration in 2016 had allowed transgender service members to serve without fearing they could be kicked out, and helped them receive medical services for the transition process.
A study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated there were 15,500 transgender military members serving in the U.S. in 2014.
Lloyd Austin, the newly confirmed secretary of defense, said he supported repealing the ban at his Senate confirmation hearing.
"I support the president's plan or plan to overturn the ban," Austin said when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "I truly believe, senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you're fit and you're qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout."
Mr. Biden's move drew immediate praise from groups like the Human Rights Campaign.
"For years, transgender patriots were forced to continue to hide their identity while serving in our military," Alphonso David, the group's president, said in a statement. "But today, thanks to President Joe Biden, Secretary Lloyd Austin, and pro-equality voters across America, they may live and serve openly as themselves. The government will begin the process to eliminate an arbitrary and discriminatory executive action that has not only harmed transgender service members but our entire military. The greatest military in the world will again value readiness over bias, and qualifications over discrimination."