WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden is about to issue an executive order to reverse Pentagon policy largely preventing transgender people from joining the military, informs The Associated Press of the decision.
Biden was widely expected to turn Trump policy on its head in his early days in office. The White House could announce the move as early as Monday, according to the person who was informed of the decision and spoke about discussing the order on condition of anonymity.
The move to reverse policy is backed by Biden’s newly confirmed Secretary of Defense, retired Army General Lloyd Austin, who spoke of the need to overturn it at his Senate confirmation hearing last week.
“I support the president’s plan or the plan to lift the ban,” Austin said. “If you are fit, qualified and able to meet the standards, you should be allowed to serve.”
The decision comes when Biden plans to turn his attention to stock issues that he believes continue to shadow almost every aspect of American life. Prior to his inauguration, Biden’s transition team distributed a memo from Ron Klain, now White House Chief of Staff, outlining Biden’s plan to use his first full week as president to “promote justice and support color and other underserved communities. ”
The move to lift the transgender ban is also the latest example of Biden using executive power in his early days as president to undermine Trump’s legacy. His early actions include orders to lift a Trump administration ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, halt construction of the wall on the US-Mexico border, and launch an initiative to promote racial justice.
Biden will hold a solemn swearing-in ceremony at the White House on Monday for Austin, who became the nation’s first black Secretary of Defense.
It was unclear how quickly the Pentagon can put a new policy in place and whether it will take some time to work out details.
Until a few years ago, members of the military could be discharged from the military as transgender, but that changed during the Obama administration. In 2016, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that transgender people who were already serving in the military could serve openly. And the military set July 1, 2017 as the date for transgender people to register.
However, after Trump took office, his administration delayed the draft date and requested additional studies to determine whether allowing transgender people to serve would affect military readiness or effectiveness.
A few weeks later, Trump surprised military leaders and tweeted that the government would not accept or allow transgender people to serve “in any capacity” in the military. “Our military must focus on a decisive and overwhelming victory and not be burdened with the enormous medical costs and disruption that transgender people in the military would bring,” he wrote.
It took nearly two years, but after a lengthy and complicated legal battle and additional reviews, the Department of Defense approved the new policy in April 2019, which was not completely banned but prohibited transgender troops and military recruits from transitioning to the opposite sex most people had to move in serve their birth gender.
Under this policy, transgender troops currently on duty and anyone who signed a hiring contract prior to its entry into force could continue their hormone treatment and sex reassignment plans if they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
But after that date, no one with gender dysphoria who was taking hormones or who had transitioned to the opposite sex was allowed to enroll. Troops who were already on duty and diagnosed with gender dysphoria were required to serve in their birth gender and were not allowed to take hormones or undergo transitional surgery.
Under Trump Policy, a service member may be fired based on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria if they are unable or unwilling to comply with all applicable standards, including those associated with their biological gender, or seeks a transition to another Gender. ”And it said troops must be given formal advice and the opportunity to change their decision before the discharge is complete.
As of 2019, an estimated 14,700 soldiers on active duty and on reservations identify as transgender, but not all seek treatment. As of July 2016, more than 1,500 service members have been diagnosed with gender-specific dysphoria. As of February 1, 2019, 1,071 were currently in use. According to the Pentagon, the department spent approximately $ 8 million on transgender care between 2016 and 2019. The military’s annual health budget exceeds $ 50 billion.
All four chiefs of service told Congress in 2018 that they had not seen any issues with discipline, morale, or readiness for units with transgender troops openly serving in the military. But they also admitted that some commanders spent significant amounts of time with transgender people addressing medical needs and other transition issues.
Associate press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.