SECDEF Directs Pentagon to Champion LGBTQI+ Rights

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on March 12 directed the Defense Department to “take steps to rescind any directives, orders, regulations, policies, or guidance” that doesn’t line up with President Joe Biden’s Feb. 4 memorandum that charged multiple U.S. government organizations with championing and safeguarding the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals by April 15. 

In the same memo, Austin charged all parts of the Pentagon to analyze and report back on how the military is implementing Biden’s memo, and to recommend more ways they can help advance the population’s human rights.

“In accordance with the Presidential Memorandum, it is the policy of the DOD to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and DOD will lead by example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world,” Austin wrote.

Austin said the Defense Department will achieve this by:

  • Enhancing current initiatives to push back against foreign governments’ efforts to make being LGBTQI+ a crime
  • Initiating or supporting initiatives to tackle “discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBTQI+ status or conduct”
  • Widening current efforts to make sure the department regularly engages “with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector” to advocate for the LGBTQI+ population’s human rights and tackle discrimination
  • Taking the potential impacts of DOD-funded programs on the human rights of all people (including the LGBTQI+ community) into account when deciding what to spend Pentagon funds on