Retired General of the U.S. Army Lloyd Austin has voiced his support to overturn the ban on transgender people serving in the American military, as supported by President Joe Biden (D). Austin is Biden’s nominee as Secretary of Defense, the civilian that has oversight over the armed forces of the United States and is second only to the President.
Austin responded to a question by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) regarding the ban that former President Donald Trump announced to Twitter and enacted during his administration despite legal challenges.
“I support the president’s plan to overturn the ban. 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,”
Austin told Gillibrand before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Austin also promised to maintain civilian, not political, control of the military if he is confirmed.
“The safety and security of our democracy demands competent civilian control of our armed forces, the subordination of military power to the civil,” he said. “I know that being a member of the president’s Cabinet — a political appointee — requires a different perspective and unique duties from a career in uniform.”
Austin further pledged that he “will work hard to stamp out sexual assault and to rid our ranks of racists and extremists” as secretary.
Still, Austin told the committee in his prepared statement, “If you confirm me, I can assure you the Pentagon under my leadership will respect your oversight responsibilities. We will be transparent with you. I will provide you my best counsel. And I will seek yours.”
Previously, over 100 House Democrats asked the military to end Trump’s transgender military ban in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton Co., which said that Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of sex” includes discrimination against LGBTQ people.
A Department of Defense-funded study from UCLA released in February 2020 found that 66% of cisgender military service members in all branches of the military broadly support the participation of transgender people in the military, effectively opposing Trump’s ban on trans service members.
Biden pledged to repeal the ban “on day one,” or as soon as logistically possible. The Pentagon will need time to reverse the provisions laid out by Trump’s ban.