President Joseph R. Biden signed an executive order overturning the previous administration's ban on the service of transgender individuals in the military.
"America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive," states a White House news release. "The military is no exception."
The order affects the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security for actions with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III fully supports President Biden's decision. In a written statement he said that all transgender individuals "who wish to serve in the United States military and can meet the appropriate standards shall be able to do so openly and free from discrimination."
The secretary insisted the change is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing. In this, he echoed the White House statement that "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 United States armed forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic," Austin said. "I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens. I also believe we should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and the devotion to serve in uniform."
The secretary told the military departments to immediately ensure individuals who identify as transgender are eligible to enter and serve in their self-identified gender.
In the order, Biden directed the defense secretary and the secretary of homeland security to ensure that all directives, orders, regulations and policies of their respective departments are consistent with the new order. "This means no one will be separated or discharged, or denied reenlistment, solely on the basis of gender identity," the White House news release said. "Prospective recruits may serve in their self-identified gender when they have met the appropriate standards for accession into the military services."
The policy also ensures all medically-necessary transition related care authorized by law is available to all service members.
The executive order also immediately prohibits "involuntary separations, discharges and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity. It also calls for an immediate start to the identification and examination of the records of service members who have been involuntarily separated, discharged or denied reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity. It provides for the correction of military records.
"Over the next 60 days, I look forward to working with the senior civilian and military leaders of the department as we expeditiously develop the appropriate policies and procedures to implement these changes," Austin wrote.