Most of us can remember a time when gay men couldn’t openly serve in the military, and the subsequent end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We also remember a time when people of all gender identities were allowed to serve in the armed forces. Today, President Biden issued an executive order lifting the Trump ban on transgender servicemembers.
Even the Commandant of the Marine Corps and other service heads had testified that such service did not impede, but enhanced, operational readiness. “No otherwise qualified Marine may be separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation solely on the basis of their gender identity,” wrote Lt. Gen Mark Brilakis, the Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Marine Corps Bulletin 1121.
I know one young man whose path to a world class education and career included serving in the US Coast Guard. He had gone through a lot of the process for admission to the Coast Guard Academy. And then word came down that the new Trump administration banned transgender military service.
Today, the ranks of the US military are again open to transgender people who wish to serve. We will update with the full text when it becomes available.
According to NPR, the executive order Biden signed Monday will fully repeal the two different orders Trump signed barring transgender individuals from military service. It will also will immediately bar servicemembers from being discharged or denied reenlistment for their gender identity. In addition it will order both the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security to begin the process of allowing transgender servicemembers to serve openly, and requires both departments to report progress within 60 days.
Wrote Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign, “For years, transgender patriots were forced to continue to hide their identity while serving in our military. 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. The order follows the Biden administration’s commitment to LGBTQ equality, including the issue of a substantive LGBTQ executive order on Day One that implements the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling. In the coming months, the Human Rights Campaign will work with the White House and Department of Defense to ensure open service proceeds smoothly and ensure every qualified patriot has an equal right to serve openly, free of discrimination.”
Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, released the following statement about the repeal: “Trans servicemembers continued to serve our nation despite a president who disrespected their contributions and who reinstated discrimination for his own political gain. With that stain on our nation removed, trans servicemembers will rise through the ranks and join the military in greater numbers, changing perceptions of trans people in the U.S. and around the world. Our history proves the military is strongest when it makes strides toward becoming more inclusive. Today will further that truth.”
Over the coming weeks and months, the Department of Defense will work swiftly to begin implementing Biden’s orders and re-opening the ranks of service.