Freedom to Serve

The Department of Defense lifted the ban on transgender people openly serving in the military.

The Department of Defense Lifts Ban On Transgender People Openly Serving In The Military

Today, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in a press conference that the ban on transgender people in the military is ending. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 ended the ban on gay, lesbian, and bisexual people serving in the military, but the ban on transgender service members remained. Today’s announcement marks the end of a years-long process and is an important step towards ensuring equality for those serving in the military.


In today’s announcement, Secretary Carter said he will tell commanders to “start with the presumption that transgender people can serve openly without impact on military readiness.” He emphasized that what is most important is whether a service member is qualified and fit for duty. “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.

The policy will be implemented over the next 12 months and will include training for the entire armed services. But beginning today, service members can no longer be involuntarily separated from the service on the basis of being transgender, affecting thousands of actively serving transgender people. For more on the specifics of the implementation read this.

The military will also amend the Military Equal Opportunity policy to include nondiscrimination protections on the basis of gender identity. These new nondiscrimination protections are an important step toward ensuring that transgender people can serve in the military free from discrimination in the military. But we still need comprehensive nondiscrimination protections to ensure they will not face discrimination when they return home.

BOTTOM LINE: Transgender people now no longer have to decide between serving their country and being themselves, and this new policy will enhance, not hinder, our national security. But we must work to ensure that the transgender service members who risk their lives for our country do not face discrimination when they return home.

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