At the Pentagon, officials said they welcomed the action, and indicated that the department would begin implementing it quickly. “The department will immediately take appropriate policy action to ensure individuals who identify as transgender are eligible to enter and serve in their self-identified gender,” Mr. Austin said in a statement. “No one will be separated or discharged, or denied re-enlistment, solely on the basis of gender identity.”
Mr. Austin said Mr. Biden’s executive order would “ensure all medically necessary transition-related care authorized by law is available to all service members,” which would remove a big stumbling block to transgender men and women seeking to join, or remain in, the military. He also promised to re-examine the cases of all transgender service members who are currently being forced out of the military.
Senior military leaders, for their part, reacted on Monday with some relief that the Pentagon would not have to continue defending the contentious ban — which spawned a number of lawsuits around the country — in courts. While military officials have declined to speak publicly about the issue for fear of wading into politics, General Milley said during his confirmation hearing in 2019, when asked about the transgender issue, that “I do not believe there is anything inherent in anyone’s identity to prevent them from serving in the military.”
Advocacy groups who had been fighting the ban since it was announced three years ago — in a tweet from Mr. Trump — have argued that the Pentagon did not need to spend months studying how to allow transgender people to serve because it had already done so. One such group, the Palm Center, said in a policy memo last summer that the military could reopen to transgender people rapidly if ordered to do so.
“A big ship can take time to turn around, so often the Pentagon needs to study policy changes and move cautiously,” Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, said in an interview in July. “But this is the rare case where, since the military left inclusive policy for already-serving transgender personnel in place even as it implemented its ban, the switch is just waiting to be flipped.”
Others argued that it was Mr. Trump’s ban, not Mr. Biden’s reversal of it, that had been ill-considered.