- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2020

An election victory by Joseph R. Biden would likely mean the quick elimination of at least two military-related executive decisions enacted by the Trump administration — the April 2019 ban on transgender military service and President Trump’s more recent executive order banning what he called “divisive” diversity training.

In October 2015, then-Vice President Biden signaled his support of transgender military members when he told the Human Rights Campaign — a gay rights group — that they should be allowed to serve openly, calling it the “civil rights issue of our time.” Less than a year later, then Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that being transgender wouldn’t result in an automatic separation from the military.

But that all changed when President Trump was sworn into office and his then defense secretary, Jim Mattis, delayed the plan from the Obama Administration that would allow transgender military recruits. In July 2017, Mr. Trump used Twitter to announce that they wouldn’t be allowed into the military.

During the 2020 Democratic primaries, Mr. Biden told the Dallas Voice — a newspaper for the city’s gay community — that he would reverse President Trump’s ban “on day one of my presidency.”

“I know that this is not just the right thing to do, but it’s in our national interest,” Mr. Biden told the newspaper.



Retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, with The Heritage Foundation, said the Trump transgender ban would probably be an “early casualty” if the Democrats take the White House.

“I suspect promises have been made,” he said.

The Pentagon was well under way in preparing for the earlier Obama-era transgender policy when Mr. Trump was elected president. The Department of Defense had “rigorously trained everybody” when Mr. Mattis announced the delay.

“It really never took full effect,” Lt. Gen. Spoehr said. “The military had gone through almost a year trying to figure these out. Then, President Trump and Secretary Mattis said they’re not going to do that.”

Researchers with the Palm Center, a San Francisco-based think tank that studies gender and sexuality issues in the military, says Mr. Trump’s ban can “easily be reversed” within 30 days.

“The transgender ban can be revered with a few simple steps that restore a policy of full inclusion,” said Aaron Belkin, the Palm Center’s director.

The Pentagon left “breadcrumbs to mark the way back” because it essentially crafted a two-track policy — establishing a general ban but retaining more lenient policies on the books that apply to about 1,600 transgender service members who were “grandfathered,” researchers with the Palm Center said.

While he believes a President Biden would ax the Trump ban, Lt. Gen. Spoehr said he would be against going that route.

“The current policy is nuanced and well-crafted, allowing those individuals free from any disqualifying issues to serve their country,” he said.

In September 2020, Mr. Trump issued a sweeping executive order banning any diversity training programs in the military that paint the United States as “fundamentally racist or sexist.”

“Unfortunately, this malign ideology is now migrating from the fringes of American society and threatens to infect core institutions of our country,” the Executive Order stated.

The Pentagon has been intent on improving diversity and inclusion in the ranks in the wake of civil unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis officer.

Mr. Trump’s executive order is another that won’t last long in a Biden administration, Lt. Gen. Spoehr said.

“That’ll be a ‘Day One Going Away’ kind of executive order,” he said.

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