WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday signed an executive order overturning a ban put in place by former President Donald Trump that barred transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
The order will apply to the more than 15,000 transgender people currently estimated to be serving in the military, according to numbers from the National Center for Transgender Equality.
The executive action directs the secretaries of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to “ensure that all directives, orders, regulations, and policies of their respective departments are consistent with this order.” It immediately bars people from being discharged or denied reenlistment based on their gender identities and orders the correction of previously affected military records.
“America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive. The military is no exception,” White House officials said in a news release announcing the decision. “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. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest.”
In July 2017, Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would be barred from serving “in any capacity” in the U.S. military, changing former President Barack Obama’s policy allowing them to serve openly.
The Trump administration announced in March 2018 that it would bar transgender people from serving in the military but that, after further study, transgender people who serve “in their biological sex” without seeking to undergo sex reassignment surgery would be allowed to serve. The policy also had an exception for troops who began the process of changing their genders under Obama-era rules.
In January 2019, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the rule to be implemented after two federal judges blocked the measure as part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Axios reported.
In a statement posted on social media, the ACLU praised Biden’s decision, saying it “sends a message that transgender people not only belong in our armed services, but in our country.”
“Discrimination should have no place in our federal government,” the group said in a statement.