Human Rights Campaign on Dept. of Defense Formalizing Directives to Reverse Ban on Transgender Military Service

by Wyatt Ronan

Today, the Human Rights Campaign responded to the announcement from the Biden administration’s Department of Defense that it has formalized its directives to reverse the ban on transgender military service.

Today, on International Transgender Day of Visibility, not only are thousands of active duty and future transgender military service members now able to serve openly as themselves for the first time in years, but tens of thousands more transgender veterans will be seen and recognized for who they are. President Biden has kept another promise to the LGBTQ community, ending the discriminatory and arbitrary prohibition on transgender military service started by the Trump administration. The end of this ban is a win for equality, and it will only serve to strengthen the military as a whole. We are thrilled to see the Biden administration continue their commitment to equality for all.

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

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 has 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’s actions by the Department of Defense implement the Executive Order issued by the Biden administration in its first week in office directing the department to reverse the ban on transgender military service. Ahead of President Biden’s inauguration, HRC 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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