WASHINGTON — The White House announced Monday that President Biden has signed an executive order lifting the discriminatory ban on transgender military service — fulfilling a key campaign promise less than a week after his inauguration. Since the Trump-Pence 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, in August 2017 and joined Latham & Watkins, LLP in filing a second lawsuit, Stockman v. Trump, on behalf of Equality California and seven transgender servicemembers 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.”
“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 — an organizational plaintiff in Stockman v. Trump. “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.”
“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.”
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community’s most vulnerable. www.nclrights.org
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLAD has achieved scores of precedent-setting legal victories for equal rights for LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. www.glad.org