In announcing the formation of a six-month working group to study the “policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged that transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines “are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit.” In addition to forming the working group, the Secretary has moved to immediately limit discharges by elevating all discharge decisions impacting transgender service members to Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson.
Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman
“It is time to allow transgender Americans to serve their country openly. We commend Defense Secretary Carter for acknowledging the untenable situation facing transgender service members and taking action to change it. His statement makes clear that the Pentagon’s outdated policy barring transgender people from serving is wrong and must end. Each day it continues to harm the more than 15,000 transgender people courageously putting their lives on the line despite the constant fear that they could be discharged at any time just because of who they are.
“Studies have already concluded that there is no rational basis for barring transgender people from serving. Indeed, Secretary Carter acknowledged that earlier this year when asked about open transgender military service: ‘I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.’
“Our close allies Australia, Canada, England, and Israel, and 14 other countries have successfully integrated transgender people into their militaries. The United States should follow their example.
“We urge the Pentagon to move swiftly to lift the ban at the end of the six-month timeframe once and for all. The longer we wait, the more qualified and talented people we will lose and the more trauma we will create for those serving in the shadows who cannot risk coming out until a final policy is announced.
“We thank all of the brave transgender men and women who have sacrificed their lives in silence and all those who are serving our country with distinction today. Like all members of the armed forces who continually put their lives on the line, transgender service members deserve the respect and dignity that come with serving openly.”