On Monday Obama’s Defense Secretary said the Pentagon’s ban on transgender individuals is outdated and the administration has ordered a study to end the practice.
“The Defense Department’s current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions,” Ash Carter said in a statement.
“At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they’re able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite.”
Carter said a working group formed to study the policy will be led by his personnel undersecretary, Brad Carson. It will operate under the presumption so-called transgenders are capable of serving “without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.”
The working group will also look at the possibility of the United States military paying for the medical costs of surgeries and other treatment associated with any gender transition or “reassignment.”
The move toward integrating transgender people into the military has support in Congress and is backed by Rep. Adam Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
It is also supported by the former Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel. “I’m open to those assessments, because – again, I go back to the bottom line – every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it,” he said last May.
In December Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said “anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve,” adding that “times change.”
The move toward a policy shift follows a September 2011 decision to repeal a ban on gay men and women serving openly.