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Biden Pentagon pick supports lifting transgender military ban

Biden Pentagon pick supports lifting transgender military ban
© Greg Nash

Ret. Gen. Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Austin says he's 'concerned' about Iranian ships in Atlantic Pentagon chief: Military has already started 'over-the-horizon' operations in Afghanistan MORE, President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s nominee to lead the Pentagon, said Tuesday he supports overturning the Trump administration’s ban on most transgender military service.

“I support the president's plan to overturn the ban,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing Tuesday. “I truly believe, senator, as I said in my opening statement, that if you are fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve.

That Biden’s nominee supports his plan to overturn a controversial Trump administration policy is not surprising, but the unequivocal answer will reassure advocates who have been pushing Biden to quickly reverse the policy.

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“It’s heartening that Defense Secretary-designate Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Austin says he's 'concerned' about Iranian ships in Atlantic Pentagon chief: Military has already started 'over-the-horizon' operations in Afghanistan MORE fully understands the urgency of ending the military’s harmful transgender ban,” Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

During the presidential campaign, Biden indicated that lifting the ban on transgender military service would be a “day one” priority, but the transition has not confirmed the exact timing of when Biden will act on the matter.

Austin also did not say when Biden would lift the ban, though Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Top general: Military justice overhaul proposed by Gillibrand 'requires some detailed study' Cher apologizes for confusing Sinema, Gillibrand MORE (D-N.Y.) in her question to Austin quoted Biden’s campaign comments on doing it on “day one.”

The Obama administration, in which Biden was vice president, lifted the previous ban on transgender military service in 2016.

But in 2017, Trump tweeted he would reverse the open service policy, saying he would “not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” A policy meant to fulfill Trump’s order that bars most transgender people from serving in the military unless they do so in their biological sex took effect in 2019.