Today, President Biden issued an Executive Order reversing the Trump administration’s policy banning transgender Americans from openly serving in the U.S. military.
We celebrate this renewed reflection of equality as an American value alongside active and veteran members of the transgender community. Allowing qualified transgender Americans to serve openly will make the United States stronger and safer. Transgender service members should get the respect and gratitude due to anyone who is willing to put their life on their line for their fellow Americans.
“Being in the military was an eye opener for me, but I was able to adapt, overcome and enjoy it. Serving during ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was tough, but its repeal made military life a bit easier for those who were LGBTQ. President Biden lifting the transgender military service ban makes me proud of my military service again. Every American should have the opportunity to choose military service, and every veteran should be respected for their service.” said Gio Santiago, a transgender veteran and Equality Ohio’s Northeast Ohio Regional Organizer.
By encouraging exclusion and discrimination, the ban was contrary to American values and an insult to the dedicated transgender service members who simply wanted to serve their country.
Equality Ohio Board Member Jody Davis, a transgender woman and veteran, recalled recently that “[t]he military was a positive experience. It took away what was personal. We shaved our heads, wore uniforms. It was the first time I felt equal to those around me. The military improved my self-esteem and taught me the importance of hard work, dignity, and respect for others.”
The ban was a vivid illustration of the discrimination that many transgender Americans experience all too often. Despite this step forward, Ohio’s LGBTQ+ service members and veterans remain vulnerable to discrimination in other areas of life because of the lack of federal and statewide nondiscrimination protections. We will continue calling upon Republicans and Democrats to pass the Ohio Fairness Act, providing nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ+ Ohioans, and the Equality Act, which would provide full protections at the federal level.
Today’s executive order is the second released in the nascent Biden Administration that positively impacts LGBTQ+ individuals. On his first day in office, President Biden directed all federal agencies to implement the 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. The ruling found that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under existing federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination. Biden’s action means the landmark ruling will now extend to every federal agency’s application and enforcement of all federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination, including employment, housing, credit, education, and more.
Although the extension of Bostock to federal agency work is a momentous step forward, it does not replace the need for statewide nondiscrimination protections in Ohio that would be provided by legislative action like the Ohio Fairness Act. These executive orders are an important step in securing equality for all LGBTQ+ Americans, but they are in no way the end goal. Executive orders can be reversed, they only impact federal law, and because of those facts, our work continues.
To get more involved in helping to make Ohio a more welcoming and inclusive place for LGBTQ+ people, sign up to volunteer with us here.