Gay rights groups urge military to lift ban on transgender service members

The Washington Post
Sandhya Somashekhar
Original Article:

Gay rights groups on Monday called on the military to lift its ban on transgender service members, after new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter suggested over the weekend that being transgender should not alone preclude a person from serving.

“I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them,” Carter said Sunday during a question-and-answer session with troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to a transcript posted on the Pentagon’s Web site.

While he has not closely studied the military’s policy, he told the troops, “I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country.”

He added, “And I’m very open-minded about — otherwise about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That’s the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members?”

The response caused ripples among gender rights advocates, not only because it came just days after Carter was sworn in but also because it was viewed as just the latest sign that there is renewed momentum to lift the ban, which remained in place even after the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding openly gay troops was lifted in 2011.

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