The executive order “sets the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve”, according to a statement from the White House. “The All-Volunteer Force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security.”
“What I'm doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform,” said the president, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark Milley, and incoming Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
President Biden’s order revokes his predecessor’s 2017 memorandum, announced in a series of posts on Twitter that blindsided military officials, that reversed a policy under Barack Obama’s administration to allow transgender people to serve.
Service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria were prohibited from undergoing medical surgeries for gender transition unless they were in the process of receiving treatment, while transgender people who received hormone treatment or had undergone transition-related surgery were barred from enlisting.
President Biden’s measure prohibits discharging or denying reenlistment on the basis of gender identity, and it directs “an immediate start to the identification and examination of the records of service members who have been involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity or under circumstances relating to gender identity, as well as the correction of the military records,” according to the White House.
The statement said: “Simply put, transgender service members will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity; transgender service members can serve in their gender when transition is complete and the gender marker in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System is changed and transgender service members should know that they are accepted throughout the US military.”
President Biden has ordered the secretaries of the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to “take all necessary steps to ensure” compliance with the order.
Military officials must also submit a report within 60 days of implementing the order.
During his Senate confirmation hearing last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve, and you can expect that I will support that throughout."
Within his first week in office after his inauguration on 20 January, the president has issued a blitz of executive actions undercutting the core legacies of his predecessor, including actions on immigration, the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which mounted several legal challenges to Mr Trump’s order, called Mr Biden’s order a “incredible victory for our clients and sends a message that transgender people not only belong in our armed services, but in our country.”