President Biden has repealed a controversial Trump-era ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
Biden signed an executive order on the issue Monday morning, ahead of an Oval Office meeting with new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Vice President Harris.
Speaking briefly to reporters in the Oval Office, Biden said the order will allow all "qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform."
Biden had campaigned on overturning former President Donald Trump's ban. At his recent Senate confirmation hearing, Austin told lawmakers he supported the move.
"If you're fit and you're qualified to serve, and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve," Austin said.
Trump initially ordered a ban on transgender troops in a series of tweets in July 2017.
"After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military," Trump wrote on the online platform he has since been banned from.
Despite that claim, the announcement caught then-Defense Secretary James Mattis and the rest of Pentagon leadership by surprise.
A month later, Trump made the order official in a presidential memo, though the ban was then blocked by federal courts before the U.S. Supreme Court finally allowed it to go forward in early 2019.
The executive order Biden signed Monday will take several steps:
It will fully repeal the two different orders Trump signed barring transgender individuals from military service;
it will immediately bar servicemembers from being discharged or denied reenlistment for their gender identity;
and it will order both the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security to begin the process of allowing transgender servicemembers to serve openly.
Biden is also asking for a progress report from both departments within 60 days.
The civil rights organization the Human Rights Campaign applauded Biden's move.
"For years, transgender patriots were forced to continue to hide their identity while serving in our military. But today ... they may live and serve openly as themselves," the group's president, Alphonso David, said in a statement. "The greatest military in the world will again value readiness over bias, and qualifications over discrimination."
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