Civil rights organizations and veterans groups have applauded Joe Biden’s repeal of Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the US military, a measure that could impact an estimated 15,000 service members, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Patricia King, the first openly transgender infantry soldier in the US, said in a statement that “the transgender community has been told once again that we can serve the nation we love, we can be heroes, and that we belong everywhere that life is lived. ”
“We have been shown once again that unique perspectives combined with shared ideals make us stronger,” she said. “Let this be a line in the sand. Let us as a people never be pushed backwards again.”
In an order signed on Monday, the president revoked his predecessor’s 2017 memorandum, initially announced on Mr Trump’s Twitter account, blindsiding military officials by overturning a policy under Barack Obama’s administration.
Progressive veterans group Vote Vets said the ban “insults our professional military.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality said Mr Biden’s measure made clear his agenda “for ensuring that transgender Americans are treated fairly and with respect, and that we are able to live our lives without fear of discrimination.”
President Biden’s order will immediately prohibit transgender people from being discharged, denied reenlistment or gainst on the basis of gender identity. His order also directs military officials to review and correct service members’ records.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the organization “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.”
Lambda Legal and the Modern Military Association of America – among several groups to mount legal battles to block the Trump administration’s ban – filed a lawsuit on behalf of six active service members and two transgender people who sought to enlist.
Peter Renn, an attorney Lambda Legal, said the ban was a “low-water mark for our country, which defied the military’s own judgment permitting open service, and its reversal marks a recommitment to our country’s most basic promise of equality for all.”
“This discriminatory ban cheapened the bravery and patriotism of transgender service members and transgender people seeking to serve,” he said.
US Army Staff Sergeant Cathrine Schmid said the group has 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.”
“This isn’t simply about our place in the military, or my place in my unit,” she said in a statement. “It’s about our right to be treated as co-equal members of society.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that the president believes “gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity.”
Newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon will work to “immediately” implement the president’s order.
“This is the right thing to do,” he said in a statement. “It is also the smart thing to do.”
He will work with senior military officials to “expeditiously develop the appropriate policies and procedures to implement these changes” over the next 60 days, according to the secretary’s statement.