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Biden Reverses Trump's Trans Military Ban

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Photo by Evan Vucci AP
Photo by Evan Vucci AP

President Joe Biden has reversed Donald Trump's ban on Transgender people serving in the US military.

"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," the White House said in a statement. "Simply put, it's the right thing to do and is in our national interest."

Biden's new executive order, signed on January 25, allows Trans people to serve openly in the US military, as they could under the Obama administration.

Biden also ordered military records to be corrected if service members were discharged or denied reenlistment or continued service due to their gender identity.

The Obama-era rules were cancelled by Trump in a 2017 tweet forbidding Trans people "to serve in any capacity in the US Military." As justification, Trump cited medical costs and potential "disruption."

Lawsuits on behalf of Trans service members promptly followed. Two federal judges stayed the ban, but the Supreme Court ultimately let the ban take effect in a 5-4 vote in January 2019.

The Trump ban affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

A 2016 RAND Corporation study estimated that the number of active-duty Transgender troops could range from 2,000 to 11,000 but stressed that the true number could vary based on self-reporting.

"Repealing the military ban sends a powerful message that transgender people belong in our country," ACLU senior legislative representative Ian Thompson said in an emailed statement. The ACLU represented a number of Trans plaintiffs suing to overturn Trump's ban.

The ACLU added that it hoped Biden's reversal would be "the first of many essential steps to not only roll back the many discriminatory policies from the Trump administration but go further than any previous administration in fully recognizing transgender and nonbinary people."

Gillian Branstetter, a spokesperson for the National Women's Law Center, said she is optimistic that the Biden administration will keep LGBTQ rights a priority while juggling the pandemic and other crises — partially due to key nominations like Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general and Xavier Becerra as Health and Human Services secretary.

"This is a significant and hopeful moment for our country. Over the last three years, we've fought to prove that transgender people are not a burden, a hindrance, or a distraction — we are an equal and contributing part of this society just as much as any other group, and this development vindicates that basic principle" said Staff Sergeant Cathrine (Katie) Schmid, a 15-year active service member of the US Army.

"This isn't simply about our place in the military, or my place in my unit. It's about our right to be treated as co-equal members of society. This harmful and backwards policy will now be put where it belongs: in a very short, shameful chapter of US military history."