Calling it ‘a matter of principle,’ US Defense Secretary Ash Carter officially lifted the ban on transgender people being able to serve openly in the military.
‘This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force,’ Carter said in making the announcement.
‘We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.’
Already, an estimated 15,500 transgender people have been serving in silence in the US military services and reserves, according to OutServe-SLDN.
‘Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence,’ said OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn Carter.
‘Today, we say (in the words of Attorney General Loretta Lynch) “we see you” and regardless of your gender identity we welcome you to serve this country with honor, dignity, courage and above all openly and honestly.’
Secretary Carter had said a year ago that the ban would be lifted unless a review showed that doing so would have ‘adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness.’
The Pentagon will create training handbook, medical protocol and ‘guidance for changing a service member’s gender in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System’ by 1 October.
The change comes nearly five years after the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell which had prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly.