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Updated at 11:37 a.m. ET
President Biden has lifted a controversial Trump-era ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
Biden signed an executive order on the matter Monday morning before the Oval Office met with new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and Vice President Harris.
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a barrier to military service and that America’s strength lies in its diversity,” a White House fact sheet read.
Biden had advocated lifting the ban on former President Donald Trump. At his most recent Senate confirmation hearing, Austin told lawmakers he supported the move.
“If you are fit and qualified to serve and you can meet the standards, you should be allowed to serve,” Austin said.
Trump card first ordered a ban on transgender troops in a series of tweets in July 2017.
“After consulting with my generals and military experts, it is pointed out that the US government will not accept or allow transgender people in any form with the US military,” wrote Trump on the online platform from which he has since been banned.
Despite this claim, the announcement took then Defense Secretary James Mattis and the rest of the Pentagon leadership by surprise.
The Executive Order Biden signed on Monday will include several steps:
- It will completely repeal the two different orders Trump signed to exclude transgender people from military service.
- it will immediately prevent service members from being fired or denied re-admission because of their gender identity;
- and it will order both the Defense Secretary and the Homeland Security Minister to begin the process of allowing transgender soldiers to serve openly.
Biden asks both departments for a progress report within 60 days.
The civil rights organization Human Rights Campaign welcomed Biden’s move.
“For years, transgender patriots were forced to further hide their identities during their military service. But today … they can openly live and serve as themselves,” the group’s president Alphonso David said in a statement. “The largest military in the world will again appreciate bias readiness and qualification for discrimination.”