26 Jan 2021

Joe Biden repeals US military transgender ban

7:18 am on 26 January 2021

US President Joe Biden has overturned a ban by his predecessor on transgender individuals serving in the US military.

Joe Biden waves after being sworn in as the 46th US President  during his inauguration on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP)

President Biden repeatedly said he planned to overturn the ban. Photo: AFP

"President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service and that America's strength is found in its diversity," the White House said in a statement.

"Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force. Simply put, it's the right thing to do and is in our national interest," it said.

Former Democratic President Barack Obama in 2016 allowed transgender people to serve openly and receive medical care to transition genders but Republican President Donald Trump froze their recruitment while allowing serving personnel to remain.

When Trump announced the ban in 2017 on Twitter, he said the military needed to focus on "decisive and overwhelming victory" without being burdened by the "tremendous medical costs and disruption" of having transgender personnel.

During his confirmation hearing, Biden's pick to lead the Pentagon, retired army general Lloyd Austin, said he supported overturning the ban.

About 1.3 million active personnel serve in the US military, Department of Defense data shows.

There are no official figures on the number of transgender members but the Rand Corp, a US policy research institute, estimated in 2016 about 2450 active service members were transgender.

- Reuters