Pressure continues to build for Secretary of Defense to order comprehensive review of outdated regulations

Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families, responded to a report by the Navy Times that the senior enlisted sailor of the U.S. Navy – Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens – would support open and honest service by transgender troops if the ban caused by outdated regulations was lifted.

According to the Navy Times, “Asked whether he thought transgender recruits who have completed their gender transitions should be allowed to serve, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens told Navy Times he believes that if they meet the Navy’s standards, they should be allowed to serve.” Stevens said, “So, I was a recruiter at one time. The Navy sets the guidelines for [who] we can allow to join the Navy. So if they’re physically, mentally and morally qualified, anybody who meets those criteria has an opportunity to serve their country.”

AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack responded to the news with the following statement: “Once again, another senior leader in our nation’s Armed Forces has voiced their support for open and honest service by transgender service members – and it’s encouraging. But we need more than words. We need action. We need the Secretary of Defense to order a comprehensive review of all of the outdated regulations that force the estimated 15,500 transgender service members in the Armed Forces to serve in silence. Until we get comprehensive action, our transgender service members and their families needlessly remain at risk.”

Stevens went on to tell the Navy Times, “My philosophy has always been this, that as a leader, I have a duty and responsibility to provide an opportunity where every sailor can be successful — and that we’re going to do that while treating one another with dignity and respect.”

Today’s news only adds support to the recent movement on the issue. The U.S. Army just implemented an official policy change regarding dismissal of transgender service members. While they are still prohibited from serving openly, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs must now approve removal of a transgender service member from the Army, rather than local unit commanders. This higher level review ensures consistency and makes it more difficult for separation.

The new Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter also recently commented on transgender service members at a town hall event in Kandahar, Afghanistan. When asked by AMPA member and Navy LCDR Jesse Ehrenfeld, “What are your thoughts on transgender service members serving in an austere environment like this here in Kandahar?”, Secretary Carted replied, “I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

The Secretary of the Air Force has also made comments in support of open service by transgender troops.