Today, HRC responded to reports that the Pentagon may delay implementation of the final piece of a policy put into place by the Obama administration that allows qualified transgender people to serve in the Armed Forces. While transgender service members serve openly today thanks to a change implemented last year under the previous administration, a final piece of the policy that will allow qualified transgender people to enter the military has yet to go into effect. Implementation had been scheduled to go into place by July 1, 2017, but may now be delayed by six months.
"Each day that passes without implementing the final piece of this important policy harms our military readiness and restricts the Armed Forces ability to recruit the best and the brightest,” said Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary and Marine veteran discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. “There are thousands of transgender service members openly and proudly serving our nation today, and as they've proven time and time again, what matters is the ability to get the job done — not their gender identity. We’re disappointed that a further delay is under consideration and urge Secretary Mattis to move forward expeditiously in implementing this recruitment policy which will strengthen our forces by allowing anyone who is qualified and willing to serve our nation."
On June 30, 2016, the Pentagon lifted the ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military, joining eighteen other nations, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel, which allow transgender people to serve openly in their militaries. Immediately following the policy’s announcement, transgender people already serving in the military were able to do so openly and were no longer able to be discharged simply because of their gender identity. The final piece of this policy which may be delayed by six months will allow qualified transgender recruits to enter the military.
There are an estimated 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense (DoD) the largest employer of transgender people in America. Like their lesbian, gay, and bisexual counterparts, transgender people were previously barred from serving openly in the United States military. However, unlike the repealed statutory ban that prohibited lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members from serving openly (known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), the ban on transgender military service was regulatory and only required action by the Secretary of Defense.
Thousands of transgender people have served with honor and distinction in our military, including the more than 134,000 transgender veterans who are alive today. As transgender service members risk their lives around the world—sometimes in combat zones—the previous ban made them unable to be their authentic selves or seek the medical care they needed. This had negative implications for our nation’s military readiness. A service member who is able to be open and honest about their gender identity and receive appropriate care is more productive and focused on the mission. In addition, the military was discharging highly trained and talented transgender service members on the basis of regulations that were nearly forty years out of date.