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Joe Biden’s secretary of defence pick gives full-throated support for trans troops serving in military

Lily Wakefield January 21, 2021
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Lloyd Austin

Retired General Lloyd Austin smiles as he testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his conformation hearing to be the next Secretary of Defense in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, on 19 January, 2021. (Getty/ POOL/ AFP / Greg Nash)

Joe Biden’s secretary of defence nominee Lloyd Austin has expressed his full support for trans troops serving in the military again.

Lloyd Austin is a retired army general, and is Biden’s pick to oversee the US armed forces.

Speaking at his Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing, Austin said he fully supports Biden’s promise to overturn the Trump administration ban on trans people serving openly in the military.

Asked by senator Kirsten Gillibrand to give his thoughts on the transphobic law, Austin said: “I support the president’s plan to overturn the ban.”

“I truly believe … that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards you should be allowed to serve. And you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

After the hearing, Gillibrand released a statement: “After years of fighting to overturn the ban on open transgender military service, we welcome and applaud Mr Austin’s support for overturning the discriminatory prohibition on transgender people serving in our military.

“Individuals who are willing to put on the uniform of our country and risk their lives to defend our freedoms should be received with commendation, not prejudice.

“We are proud that our armed services will once again embrace the principle that anyone who can meet the military’s standard should be allowed to serve, regardless of gender identity.”

The retired general also promised that, if confirmed, he would “work hard to stamp out sexual assault and to rid our ranks of racists and extremists”.

Lloyd Austin’s confirmation will not be simple, however, as rules state that a military officer must be retired for seven years before holding a position in the National Security Council.

Having only been retired for four years, Austin needs to obtain a waiver exempting him from these rules. Former defense secretary Jim Mattis already received a similar waiver in 2017 under Donald Trump.

Austin promised the committee: “If confirmed, I will carry out the mission of the Department of Defense, always with the goal to deter war and ensure our nation’s security, and I will uphold the principle of civilian control of the military, as intended.

“I would not be here, asking for your support, if I felt I was unable or unwilling to question people with whom I once served and operations I once led, or too afraid to speak my mind to you or to the president.”

Related topics: joe biden, Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defence

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