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Biden to Drop Military Transgender Ban 01/25 06:07

   President Joe Biden is set to issue an executive order to reverse a Pentagon 
policy that largely bars transgender individuals from joining the military, 
dumping a ban ordered by President Donald Trump in a tweet during his first 
year in office, a person briefed on the decision tells The Associated Press.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is set to issue an executive order to 
reverse a Pentagon policy that largely bars transgender individuals from 
joining the military, dumping a ban ordered by President Donald Trump in a 
tweet during his first year in office, a person briefed on the decision tells 
The Associated Press.

   Biden has been widely expected to overturn the Trump policy in his early 
days in office. The White House could announce the move as early as Monday, 
according to the person briefed on the decision who spoke on the condition of 
anonymity to discuss the order.

   The move to reverse the policy has the support of Biden's newly confirmed 
defense secretary, retired Army Gen. 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."

   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 travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, stop construction of 
the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, and launch an initiative to advance racial 
equity.

   Biden is also scheduled to hold a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony on Monday 
at the White House for Austin, who became the nation's first Black defense 
secretary.

   It was unclear how quickly the Pentagon can put a new policy in effect, and 
whether it will take some time to work out details.

   Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military 
for being transgender, but that changed during the Obama administration. In 
2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that transgender people already 
serving in the military would be allowed to serve openly. And the military set 
July 1, 2017, as the date when transgender individuals would be allowed to 
enlist.

   After Trump took office, however, his administration delayed the enlistment 
date and called for additional study to determine if allowing transgender 
individuals to serve would affect military readiness or effectiveness.

   A few weeks later, Trump caught military leaders by surprise, tweeting that 
the government wouldn't accept or allow transgender individuals to serve "in 
any capacity" in the military. "Our military must be focused on decisive and 
overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs 
and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," he wrote.

   It took nearly two years, but after a lengthy and complicated legal battle 
and additional reviews, the Defense Department in April 2019 approved the new 
policy that fell short of an all-out ban but barred transgender troops and 
military recruits from transitioning to another sex and required most 
individuals to serve in their birth gender.

   Under that policy, currently serving transgender troops and anyone who had 
signed an enlistment contract before the effective date could continue with 
plans for hormone treatments and gender transition if they had been diagnosed 
with gender dysphoria.

   But after that date, no one with gender dysphoria who was taking hormones or 
has transitioned to another gender was allowed to enlist. Troops that were 
already serving and were diagnosed with gender dysphoria were required to serve 
in their birth gender and were barred from taking hormones or getting 
transition surgery.

   Under the Trump policy, a service member can be discharged based on a 
diagnosis of gender dysphoria if he or she is "unable or unwilling to adhere to 
all applicable standards, including the standards associated with his or her 
biological sex, or seeks transition to another gender." And it said troops must 
be formally counseled and given a chance to change their decision before the 
discharge is finalized.

   As of 2019, an estimated 14,700 troops on active duty and in the Reserves 
identify as transgender, but not all seek treatment. Since July 2016, more than 
1,500 service members were diagnosed with gender dysphoria; as of Feb. 1, 2019, 
there were 1,071 currently serving. According to the Pentagon, the department 
spent about $8 million on transgender care between 2016 and 2019. The 
military's annual health care budget tops $50 billion.

   All four service chiefs told Congress in 2018 that they had seen no 
discipline, morale or unit readiness problems with transgender troops serving 
openly in the military. But they also acknowledged that some commanders were 
spending a lot of time with transgender individuals who were working through 
medical requirements and other transition issues.

 
 
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