WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an effort to unwind the anti-LGBTQ initiatives that the Trump administration spearheaded, President Joe Biden has set out a global effort to help bring diversity and inclusion back to the mainstream. He and his staff have been engaged in bringing back such items as allowing transgender military personnel to serve out and proud, providing for healthcare and housing needs for LGBTQ citizens, opening the doors to LGBTQ individuals to U.S. shores, recognizing LGBTQ individuals globally, among others.
In one of Biden’s first executive orders, he enabled all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform, thus ending the ban on transgender military service. The document stated, “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Policy. All Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States (“Armed Forces”) should be able to serve. 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. It is my conviction as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces that gender identity should not be a bar to military service. Moreover, there is substantial evidence that allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military does not have any meaningful negative impact on the Armed Forces.”
Organizations praised Biden for this action. The Human Rights Campaign said, “We want to thank President Biden and his administration for reversing this discriminatory ban and thank the over 15,000 transgender service members who continued to serve under this discriminatory ban. We have been fighting this ban since President Trump first tweeted it in 2017.”
In remarks made from the Oval Office just before he signed the executive order, Biden said, “This is reinstating a position that previous commanders and — as well as the Secretaries have supported. And what I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform, and essentially restoring the situation as it existed before, with transgender personnel, if qualified in every other way, can serve their government in the United States military.”
Out and Equal’s CEO Erin Uritus shared, “President Biden’s reversal of the Transgender Military Ban is a huge step towards full equality for the LGBTQ community and serves to make us stronger as a nation. It will allow transgender Americans who choose to serve to do so freely, safely, and honorably. With the confirmation of the nation’s first Black Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd Austin, our armed forces — across all ranks — are increasingly looking like the country they so valiantly protect. Their talents will make our military better.”
“President Biden’s restoration of open service recognizes transgender service members as an integral part of our military and closes a dark chapter of history,” said Emma Shinn, president of SPART*A and a captain in the Marine Corps. “I am elated that the approximately 15,000 transgender service members proudly serving across the globe can rest easier knowing that their service to our nation is seen, valued and that they can continue to serve as their authentic selves.”
“President Biden’s action to reverse the ban is a tremendous victory for inclusion in the government’s most diverse organization,” said Jennifer Dane, Modern Military Association of America executive director and Air Force veteran. “The move enhances national security by allowing otherwise qualified Americans to serve their country and for transgender people already serving to reach their full potential.”
David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said, “Anyone who is qualified to serve and wants to serve should be able to do so without discrimination. Prejudice and discrimination against the various identities that make a person who they are should never be justified or legalized by our government. For Black transgender people, much like the rest of the Black community, the military is often a gateway to an affordable or free education, and often provides a pathway out of poverty. Transgender people deserve to be respected and protected in every avenue of their lives, including their jobs. We applaud this decision to allow transgender people to live openly and freely as themselves, especially while working for one of the largest employers in the United States, and look forward to working with the Biden/Harris administration on furthering protections for our transgender siblings across the board.”
Equality Federation Executive Director Fran Hutchins stated, “Thousands of transgender Americans already serve in our military and are putting their lives on the line. This executive order will allow them to once again serve openly and with honor and integrity.”
A statement from Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director with Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, stated, “This discriminatory ban weakened our military and deprived the nation of trained service members, which needlessly put our country at a disadvantage. Unlike the unjust policies created to target the LGBTQ+ community by the previous administration, President Biden’s executive order is grounded in facts instead of prejudice. Opportunity to patriotically serve one’s country should never be limited by gender identity or sexual orientation. Transgender people serve our country with honor and courage, many in combat, despite Donald Trump’s cruel and unfair and unnecessary ban. Transgender service men and women enlist with the same hopes and dreams for America’s security and prosperity. Their sacrifice is equally deserving of our respect, appreciation and admiration. The SPLC will continue to stand with all transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans — whether civilian or military — in the march toward dignity and equality for everyone in our nation.”
Equality North Carolina shared their sentiments by saying, “This is an incredible pro-equality move by the Biden administration, who has a long road ahead to undo the painful legacy of anti-LGBTQ attacks by the former administration.”
According to new polling data from The Trevor Project and Morning Consult, 60 percent of American adults support allowing openly transgender people to serve in the U.S. military, including a majority of military households. “The discriminatory policy had a harmful impact on transgender and nonbinary youth mental health,” Trevor shared.
“San Diego has the highest concentration of LGBTQ military personnel in the world, making [the] historic executive order by President Biden ending the ban on transgender servicemembers that much more meaningful and impactful to the daily lives of our local community. Transgender servicemembers and veterans such as Christine Jorgensen, Albert Cashier, Autumn Sandeen, Kristin Beck, Evander Deocariza and Ronnie Zerrer have been a part of the fabric of our country since our nation’s founding and important drivers of our movement for LGBTQ equality throughout our history. However, systemic and target discrimination, even from within our own community, has left steeper roads to equity and justice for our trans siblings. Our country took an important humanizing step for our trans siblings in showing people across the U.S. and the world that all those who are willing and able to defend the Constitution and Country should be afforded dignity and respect,” said Fernando Zweifach López, executive director for San Diego Pride.
However, criticism came from individuals who come from the opposite side of the conversation. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a Marine veteran, criticized Biden’s swift reinstatement of President Barack Obama’s transgender military policy, saying, “Political correctness doesn’t win wars, but the president is indulging dangerous and unproven theories that have the potential to undermine national security. As president-elect, Joe Biden promised to bring unity to our country. Providing our servicemembers with the resources to keep our country safe would help move our country in this direction. Instead, President Biden is diverting precious dollars from mission-critical training to something as controversial as gender reassignment surgery. The military cannot focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars when it is being used as a vehicle to advance the far Left’s social agenda. As our nation faces serious national security threats, our troops shouldn’t be forced to endure hours of transgender ‘sensitivity’ classes and politically-correct distractions like this one.”
Other Initiatives and Executive Orders
In addition to lifting the ban as outlined above, the Biden administration has also taken other steps to be more inclusive. He directed federal agencies to adopt a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including in federal employment, policies, programs and services. This includes in part barring anti-discrimination in housing, increasing access to healthcare for LGBTQ individuals including for sexual and reproductive health, preventing and combatting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation (The Women’s Liberation Front denounced the executive order which takes steps to end female-only spaces and sports despite the objections from many women’s organizations.), implementing the Supreme Court’s decision last June in Bostock v. Clayton County, and others.
Combatting COVID-19 has also been on the agenda. Research done by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law found that many LGBTQ adults are particularly vulnerable to serious illness related to COVID-19. According to one recent study, an estimated 319,800 transgender adults in the U.S. have one or more medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease that put them at increased risk of serious illness related to COVID-19. Another study estimated that over 800,000 LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are age 65 and older.
The administration has acknowledged the value of the LGBTQ community worldwide in an executive order. Organizations such as the Rainbow Railroad applauded the memorandum. “This action is historic,” said Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Dr. Kimahli Powell. “It is a repudiation of a politics of fear and hatred promoted by the Trump administration about refugees and asylum seekers which prevented the United States from being deemed a safe sanctuary. We applaud this sea change in the U.S. approach, and are hopeful for the rights not just of LGBTQI+ people everywhere, but all those impacted by the global refugee crisis.”
The White House also has added gender neutral pronouns to its website.
Biden is the first president in U.S. history to issue an executive order explicitly on LGBTQ rights on his first day in office, the Williams Institute shared.
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