January 25, 2021

Palm Center Statement on Biden Administration Announcement that Pentagon Will End Military’s Transgender Ban

Restoration of Inclusive Policy is Called a Triumph of “Fact-Based,” “Smart National Defense”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, made the following statement in response to the Biden administration’s announcement today that it will end the ban on transgender military service, restoring the inclusive policy created by the Obama Pentagon:

“Today, those who believe in fact-based public policy and a strong, smart national defense have reason to be proud. The Biden administration has made good on its pledge to put military readiness above political expediency by restoring inclusive policy for transgender troops.

“The ban will now be replaced with a single standard for everyone that, as in the successful previous policy, will apply equally to all service members. This is a major step in the defense not only of America but of American values. We look forward to a speedy implementation of inclusive policy.” 

President Joseph Biden said during his campaign that quickly ending the transgender ban was “not just the right thing to do, but it’s in our national interest.” When former President Donald Trump banned transgender troops in 2019, almost three years after the previous ban had been lifted by former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, it was the first time in American history that a minority group was allowed to serve in the military only to be subsequently banned. Trump’s ban was widely viewed as a reflection of political and moral objectives rather than a way to address military readiness. The Carter policy of inclusion was uniformly considered a success, with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley saying it caused “precisely zero reports” of problems. The Trump ban itself was recently found to be harmful to military readiness.

Experts say implementation of the Biden policy change should occur quickly. As the Palm Center has shown in a recent memo, the Pentagon has everything in place to end the ban in a matter of weeks. The memo explains that the necessary guidance “already exists in current” military policy because the Pentagon had to leave regulations in place to govern grandfathered transgender troops under Trump’s ban. As a result, even as it reinstated the ban, DoD “left all the necessary breadcrumbs to mark the way back to inclusive service.”