On June 30 the Pentagon made a historic announcement that it is lifting its ban on Transgender people being able to serve openly in the U.S. military. The announcement, made by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, comes five years after the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' that allowed Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people to openly serve the country as members of the military. The ban is lifted effective immediately.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter:
'This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force.
'We're talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can't allow barriers unrelated to a person's qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.'
NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter:
'We welcome this historic announcement. Transgender servicemembers have long served their country with honor and courage. As the repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy has shown, military readiness is enhanced, not diminished, when our armed forces end discriminatory personnel policies. While some questions about the details of the new policy remain, we hope the armed services will move quickly and decisively to implement the goals of the new policy, which are to permit transgender servicemembers to serve openly and without discrimination.'
OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn:
'OutServe-SLDN applauds and welcomes Secretary Carter's announcement today. Every day, an estimated 15,500 dedicated, proud and courageous transgender service members have been forced to live quietly and serve in righteous indignation, anticipating the end of the discriminatory ban on open trans service to be lifted in the Armed Forces.
'Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years: it has long been overdue. Secretary Carter, with his statement, has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently.
'Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence. Today, we say (in the words of Attorney General Loretta Lynch) 'we see you' and regardless of your gender identity we welcome you to serve this country with honor, dignity, courage and above all openly and honestly.
'We are pleased with the Department of Defense's decision to finally remove this unjust barrier to military service. The military is our nation's largest employer, and we are encouraged by this critical step to help end government-sanctioned employment discrimination.
'Estimates suggest that 15,000 transgender women and men are currently serving - most in silence - in the various branches of the military and reserves. A 2014 study by the Williams Institute showed that transgender people are more likely to serve than the general population. Despite being willing to make the extreme sacrifices often required by military service, transgender service members continue to endure institutionalized discrimination and stigmatization. Transgender women and men deserve to have the same opportunities as their peers to serve in the armed forces, and to have their courageous service rewarded with the same dignity, pride and honor.
'As the Department of Defense prepares to lift this ban, many other historic barriers to military service come to mind, including race, gender and most recently sexual orientation. None of these attributes influences a person's ability or commitment in a military setting. Neither does gender identity.
'We hope that this newest measure will be implemented swiftly and effectively, and Lambda Legal will continue to work to ensure that all transgender soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors will receive the respect they deserve.'
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights CEO Wade Henderson:
'Today's victory is a tremendous one for a nation that once denied women, African Americans, and gay and lesbian individuals the opportunity to serve. An integrated military, now inclusive of all LGBT service members, is not only a sound military approach but a moral imperative for our nation. This was true in 1948, when this country first allowed women and African-Americans to serve in the military; in 2011, when the ban was lifted on gay and lesbian service members; and remains true today.
'Attracting and retaining all talented service members - regardless of their gender identity - strengthens our military readiness. Updating military policy to ensure these patriotic Americans do not face discrimination allows them to serve openly and with integrity, and demonstrates that transgender people - like all Americans - should be judged for their qualifications.
'This policy is an important step forward for our country as we recognize and honor transgender American service members and the patriotic contributions they have made. But we still have more to do to ensure that transgender Americans - service members, veterans, and civilians - are treated fairly in all aspects of American life.'
Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA):
'This policy is an important step toward ensuring that our military is strong and inclusive. It will protect the rights of transgender individuals who already serve in the U.S. armed forces, with minimal impact on the operations of the Department of Defense.
'These changes will involve a very small number of individuals serving in the armed forces, on the order of 0.1 percent of the approximate total of two million active and reserve members in the U.S military. The evidence indicates that modernizing our policy in this way will not meaningfully reduce readiness. In fact, according to research by the RAND Corporation and retired flag officers, it should enhance readiness by enabling commanders to better provide for the needs of the men and women they lead. Similar policies have already been adopted by U.S. allies such as Israel, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
'By providing clarity for the service branches and removing an obsolete policy that has made it more difficult for our men and women in uniform to do their jobs, this policy will strengthen, not reduce, the military's ability to defend the United States.'
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