Jan. 25, 2021 (WASHINGTON) — Today, President Biden issued an executive order lifting the ban on transgender military service. Since the outgoing administration began to enforce the ban in April 2019, dedicated transgender service members have been threatened with discharge, and qualified transgender Americans have been barred from enlisting, participating in ROTC, or attending military academies.
From its announcement, the ban was criticized by military leaders and experts and faced broad bipartisan opposition from the public. Multiple federal courts issued rulings against it, which kept the ban from going into effect for nearly two years after President Trump first ordered it in July 2017. GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed the first legal challenge, Doe v. Trump, on behalf of multiple current and aspiring transgender service members, in August 2017 and joined in filing a second lawsuit, Stockman v. Trump, on behalf of Equality California and seven additional service members and recruits the following month. GLAD and NCLR anticipate a swift resolution of all pending lawsuits opposing the ban with the issuance of today’s order.
“It is my highest goal to serve my country in the U.S. military and I’ve fought this ban because I know that I am qualified to serve,” said Nicolas Talbott, an aspiring service member who is a plaintiff in Stockman v. Trump. “I’m thrilled and relieved that I and other transgender Americans can now be evaluated solely on our ability to meet military standards. I look forward to becoming the best service member I can be.”
“Our fight to end the transgender military ban was about equal opportunity, fairness and service, and President Biden’s order today honors those shared national values,” said Jennifer Levi, Director of Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “Transgender Americans can and will bring needed skills to our armed forces at every level, and I look forward to seeing our nation benefit from the contributions of a new generation of transgender leaders and patriots.”
“President Biden’s order allows us to put this shameful episode behind us and marks the beginning of a much brighter era in which military service is once again based on a person’s qualifications, not on who they are,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Transgender people have proved their fitness to serve and ask nothing more than the opportunity to do so based on the same standards that apply to others. This is a great day for our nation and a welcome relief from the negative and divisive policies of the past four years.”
“With the stroke of a pen, President Biden has simultaneously put an end to an unpatriotic, discriminatory policy and given hope to thousands of qualified transgender servicemembers and their families,” said Rick Chavez Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California. “Today is the result of countless transgender patriots — like Nic Talbott and so many others — speaking up to defend their livelihoods and their country. Equality California has always stood with our transgender troops, but we are especially proud to do so today.”