Human Rights Campaign on Biden’s Reversal of the Ban on Transgender Military Service

by HRC staff

Post submitted by Viet Tran (he/him/they/them), former HRC Press Secretary

Human Rights Campaign responded to the announcement from the Biden administration that it will be issuing an executive order to reverse the ban on transgender military service.

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.

Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign

There are thousands of transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense (DOD) the largest employer of transgender people in America. The discriminatory ban have had a significant impact on our nation’s military readiness and on transgender service members risking their lives around the world – sometimes in combat zones. Our military must be able to recruit the best candidates and retain highly-trained, talented transgender service members who have faced discharge for living openly as themselves.

After extensive study by the Pentagon, the Obama Administration and the leadership of the Pentagon moved forward with the elimination of the transgender military ban and allowed transgender service members to serve openly. In July 2017, President Trump announced a full ban on Twitter without any consultation with Pentagon leaders. HRC, represented by our attorneys at Lambda Legal and Modern Military Association of America, joined individual transgender servicemembers in suing the Trump administration.

These courageous service members have been forced to serve in silence by DOD regulations prohibiting their service. Unlike the statutory ban that interfered with lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members from serving (known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) the ban on transgender military service is regulatory and only requires action by the DOD to update. Today marks the first step in that action, though the reversal of the ban will also need to be implemented.

Last week, President Biden released an executive order that implements the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the consolidated cases Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. The Executive Order will have a real and practical impact on the day-to-day lives of the approximately 11 million LGBTQ adults and millions more LGBTQ youth in the United States.

HRC recently released the Blueprint for Positive Change 2020, an important brief that includes 85 individual policy recommendations, reaching across the federal government, aimed at bettering the daily lives of LGBTQ people at home and abroad. Eliminating the transgender military ban was among our top recommendations. Other recommendations include ensuring consistent administrative implementation of Bostock v. Clayton County across all agencies and establishing an interagency working group to address anti-transgender violence.

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