Vice President Joe Biden took the Obama administration’s stance on transgenders in the military to the next level Saturday, saying it represents the “civil rights issue of our time.”
The Obama administration is in the middle of deliberating whether to officially end the ban on transgenders serving openly in the military and has largely held off making any major pronouncements, despite supporting a Pentagon review examining the issue, The Associated Press reports.
But Saturday at an annual dinner put on by the Human Rights Campaign, Biden put his foot down.
“No longer is there any question transgender people are able to serve in the United States military,” Biden told 3,000 gay activists at the dinner, before castigating the “shrill voices” in opposition to gay marriage and the advance of other progressive social causes.
While gay rights have traditionally occupied the attention of the Human Rights Campaign, with the recent legal success of gay marriage nationwide, activists have shifted to transgender rights as the next frontier, though Biden noted that “There’s homophobes still left — most of them are running for president.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter launched a review study back in July, using the same justification the Pentagon has relied upon for opening up combat roles to women, namely that so long as candidates meet the standards required, there should be no outright ban on entire classes of people.
The study is expected to last for six months, though the review is more or less advanced notice for services to prepare themselves for transgender acceptance. Although transgenders under cover in the military still have to bide their time, it is highly unlikely that any will be removed in the interim period. The services have done everything in their power to prevent transgender discharges. Since the review started, the new policy has been to funnel any potential discharges through Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson.
Virtually no one in the Republican camp has raised a fuss about the issue. The most the GOP could muster was a question from Sen. Jim Inhofe about which bathroom transgenders would be allowed to use. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he didn’t have any major objections to the administration’s plans. McCain opposed gays serving openly in the military in 2010.
“It’s simple,” Biden, who endorsed gay marriage in 2012, even ahead of Obama, said at the event. “All Americans are qualified to serve, should be able to serve.”