(WB) Gen. Lloyd Austin, the pick by Joe Biden to lead the Defense Department in his administration, said Tuesday for the first time publicly he supports efforts to overturn the transgender military ban.
Austin made the comments during his confirmation hearing for the role of secretary of defense under questioning from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has taken the lead on the issue in the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I support the plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said. “I truly believe that if you’re a fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve.”
Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, said in a statement Austin’s comments in favor of ending the transgender military ban are welcome news.
“It’s heartening that defense secretary-designate Lloyd Austin fully understands the urgency of ending the military’s harmful transgender ban,” Belkin said. “Very little needs to be done administratively to finally end discrimination against transgender troops, and we look forward to the arrival of fully inclusive policy very soon.”
Sources told the Washington Blade the Biden team in a conference call with LGBT leaders Biden on his first day in office would direct the Defense Department to dismantle the transgender military ban, individuals familiar with the call told the Washington Blade.
It may take an entire year before the Pentagon is completely able to undo the ban, which President Trump initiated by tweet in July 2017. The Palm Center, however, has issued a memo asserting the policy could be reversed in as few as 30 days.