Secretary Ashton Carter announced Thursday that the military would no longer block transgender people from serving.
The Pentagon spent a year studying the outcome of the decision, according to CNN. Carter said the decision was a “matter of principle.”
At the news conference, Carter said:
“The Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now — the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”
“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. We have to have access to 100 percent of America’s population.”
Thursday’s decision follows two other major milestones for LGBTQ with regards to the military – in 2011, the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy was expelled, and in 2015, the Pentagon expanded the Defense Department’s equal opportunity program, which now protects all service members against discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation.
According to The New York Times, the Pentagon will cover the costs of military members seeking to go through a gender transition, but it would expect newer recruits to spend at least 18 months in their transitioned gender before enlisting.
The Pentagon will also begin a year-long training program for current military members to address the changes.
A RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon found that there are over 11,000 transgender active duty service members and reservists who will be affected by Thursday’s decision.
Carter noted the Pentagon received input from transgender service members and experts and medical professionals outside the department. He also said at least 18 other countries allow transgender members to serve openly.
What impact do you think lifting the ban will have on military personnel? Sound off in the comments.