The U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, has come out in support of lifting the U.S. military’s current transgender ban. Secretary James told USA Today, “From my point of view, anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve.”
“What matters is the ability to get the job done and complete the mission, not someone’s gender identity,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway responding to the news. “There is no valid reason for the outdated regulations preventing transgender people from serving openly and honestly to remain in place. The current policy not only impacts the estimated 15,500 transgender service members currently serving in silence, but their families as well. No military family should have to endure the hardships and damage this policy causes. The Defense Department should move quickly to update this and other outdated policies impacting LGBT military families.”
The journey towards full LGBT equality in the Defense Department is far from complete. The Defense Department has not yet updated significantly outdated policies impacting LGBT service members and their families. In addition to the outdated regulations prohibiting open and honest service by transgender people, over three years after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the Defense Department has still not added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy and equal opportunity program for service members.
Last month, the Palm Center released a report highlighting changes that had been made already at the Department level that could impact the ban on transgender service. According to the report, “On August 5, 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a new regulation that weakens the prohibition against transgender personnel in military service and requires reassessment of the policy, even though the ban remains in effect. 1 DOD Instruction (DODI) 1332.18, Disability Evaluation System (DES), eliminates a component of the regulatory architecture of the transgender ban, as DOD no longer requires the services (Army, Air Force, Navy/Marines) to separate or discharge transgender personnel. As a result of DOD’s regulatory revision, service-level regulations are now out of compliance with DOD rules and must be revised.”