Nearly a year ago, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the U.S. military’s ban on the open service of transgender troops was “outdated” and promised the policy would be reviewed. Advocacy groups had grown impatient in the early months of this year, but a report late Friday indicates their wait is almost over.
USA Today, citing an unnamed Department of Defense official, reports the ban will end on July 1 and that Pentagon officials are gathering to finalize the details in the coming days. Individual branches of the armed services would have a year to implement new policies. A study commissioned by the Department of Defense and conducted by the RAND Corporation found that there “would be few hurdles to allowing transgender people to serve openly,” the New York Times recently reported.
Estimates of how many active duty military members identify as transgender are wide-ranging educated guesses, given that this is not information that the federal government collects. The RAND study estimated that only about 2,500 of the 1.2 million active duty members are transgender, while a study by UCLA’s Williams Institute estimated the number to be 15,500, in addition to 134,300 veterans.
Advocacy groups reacted to the news on Friday with approval. “This final remnant of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will now be put to rest. This decision is a great victory for the many trans people who have served and sacrificed in the military over the years,” the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán said in a statement. “They also served in fear of being discharged from the service for simply being who they are. Thankfully this now will change.”
In his statement last summer, Carter also referenced the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the ban on the open service of gay troops that was lifted in 2010, saying “we have learned from” that reform. “Throughout this time, transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us,” he said, “even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms.”
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