U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday overturned a controversial ban by his predecessor on transgender individuals serving in the country’s military, a move that fulfils a campaign promise and will be cheered by LGBTQ advocates.
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” the White House said in a statement.
“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. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest,” it said.
Former president Barack Obama in 2016 allowed trans people to serve openly and receive medical care to transition genders, but his successor, Donald Trump, froze their recruitment while allowing serving personnel to remain.
The move to reverse the policy has the support of Biden’s newly confirmed defence secretary, retired general Lloyd Austin, who spoke of the need to overturn it during his Senate confirmation hearing last week.
“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said. “If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve.”
One of several measures ‘to advance equity’
The decision comes as Biden plans to turn his attention to equity issues that he believes continue to shadow nearly all aspects of American life.
Ahead of his inauguration, Biden’s transition team circulated a memo from Ron Klain, now the White House chief of staff, that sketched out Biden’s plan to use his first full week as president “to advance equity and support communities of color and other underserved communities.”
The move to overturn the transgender ban is also the latest example of Biden using executive authority in his first days as president to dismantle Trump’s legacy.
His early actions include orders to overturn a Trump administration ban on travellers from several predominantly Muslim countries, stop construction of the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and launch an initiative to advance racial equity.