Biden's Pick for Defense Secretary Voices Support for Scrapping Trans Military Ban

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday January 20, 2021

President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Defense, Gen. Lloyd Austin (retired), spoke unequivocally about his views when it comes to Biden's plan to scrap Donald Trump's ban on openly transgender Americans serving in the armed forces, political news site The Hill reports.

Austin is now in the confirmation phase of his nomination for the post. He answered questions about the ban from the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 19.

"I support the president's plan to overturn the ban," The Hill quoted Austin as saying. "I truly believe, senator, as I said in my opening statement, that if you are fit and you're qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve."

The Hill noted that "the unequivocal answer will reassure advocates who have been pushing Biden to quickly reverse the policy."

The Palm Center, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to "enhance the quality of public dialogue about critical and controversial public policy issues" and has studied LGBTQ military service, issued a press release on Jan. 19 that included comments from the group's director, Aaron Belkin.

"It's heartening that Defense Secretary-designate Lloyd Austin fully understands the urgency of ending the military's harmful transgender ban," Belkin said in the release. "Very little needs to be done administratively to finally end discrimination against transgender troops, and we look forward to the arrival of fully inclusive policy very soon."

Biden has vowed to bolster rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans that have come under attack during the four years of Donald Trump's presidency.

Trump announced the ban on transgender military members in a tweet he sent out on July 26, 2017. The directive came just over a year after a plan to rescind the previous ban had been announced. The new policy had been set to come into effect in June of 2017, but then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis delayed implementation of the revised policy. Trump's tweet banning trans Americans from military service came the following month.

Trump's ban was amended in April, 2019, allowing transgender servicemembers to remain in the military but barred enlistment by trans individuals. The policy also required transgender troops to "serve in their sex as assigned at birth" and prevented them "from taking hormones or getting gender-affirming surgery," NBC News reported at the time.

Twitter users reacted to Austin's comments, many expressing approval of the general's support for the ban's repeal. Check out some of their posts below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.