President Joe Biden has wasted no time in seeking to overturn his predecessor’s legacy. Within the first days of being sworn in, the new commander-in-chief has signed a number of executive orders seeking to overturn several of Donald Trump’s more famous—or infamous—policies.
These include executive orders to stop the construction of a wall between the U.S. southern border and Mexico and to reverse the ban on individuals from a handful of primarily Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
One additional noteworthy executive order signed by the new President reverses the previous ban on transgender individuals from serving in any branch of the armed forces.
President Biden signed Executive Order 14,004 on January 25th. The order, titled, “Enabling All Qualified Americans To Serve Their Country in Uniform” revokes the 2018 order issued by then-president, Donald Trump, which banned transgender individuals from serving in the military.
The Trump Ban
The Trump-era ban on transgender individuals serving in the military had been somewhat hastily instituted. Before the order was issued, transgender service members had been serving openly, both under the Obama administration, and even in the early days of the Trump administration.
However, President Trump reversed course and issued an outright ban, stating “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.” While the administration had been studying the effects of allowing transgender individuals to serve openly, the President did not wait for the results and abruptly issued the order.
President Biden’s Order
It was widely expected that President Biden would reverse the ban early on in his presidency and he has done just that. The actual order states:
“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.”
The move to revoke President Trump’s ban is supported by new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin among others in the administration.
In addition to allowing transgender individuals to serve in all branches of the military openly, the executive order calls for a review of all service members who were discharged under the Trump-era ban. The Department of Homeland Security will be conducting the review and will report back to the president on their progress within 60 days.
The new policy is set to impact a small but significant contingent of the armed forces. A study from 2016 revealed that about 1 percent of active service members identify as transgender. Given the number of individuals currently in the armed forces, that translates to just under 9000 troops. An additional 5000 or so transgender service members are a part of the military’s Selective Reserve.
Time will tell how effectively the Biden administration, primarily the various branches of the armed forces and Department of Homeland Security, are able to implement the order. For those affected by it, it is sure to be one of the defining marks of the early days of Biden’s presidency and something followed with great interest.