Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday removed one of the final remaining barriers to military service by lifting the Pentagon’s ban on openly transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
“Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly,” Carter said at a news conference. “They can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.”
Carter continued, “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. We have to have access to 100 percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified — and to retain them.”
“It is frustrating the Pentagon now has a strategy for transgender service members, but they still lack an actual strategy for defeating radical Islamic terrorism,” said Byrne in a news release. “Once again it seems the Obama Administration is more interested in advancing a political agenda than they are in proposing sound policy.”
According to Carter, within 90 days the Pentagon will create a guidebook for commanders on rules regarding transgender service members as well as medical guidance to doctors.
Within one year, transgender individuals will be allowed to join the armed forces, provided they have been “stable” in their preferred gender for 18 months, he continued.
Lifting the transgender ban was the latest move in a series of controversial cultural changes in the military in recent years — from the 2011 decision to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring gays and lesbians from serving openly, to Carter’s December 2015 decision lifting restrictions on women serving in combat roles.
Many critics have called Wednesday’s decision “social engineering” that risks troop readiness and the ability to fight.