Former Florida governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush sounded open to the idea of letting transgender Americans serve openly in the armed forces when asked about it by BuzzFeed Newsat a campaign stop Wednesday.
"I'm sure there's a role for everybody to play in the armed forces," Bush responded when BuzzFeed News asked about the long-standing ban on military service by transgender Americans. "I think it would depend on the role, the specific role, whether it's appropriate or not."
"The first priority for the military is to create an environment where the morale's high, where people are trained, and we have the best fighting force. And if you can accommodate that in that kind of environment, I don't think there's a problem for it."
Bush, who formally announced his presidential campaign Monday in Miami, ending months of speculation, did acknowledge that he has "no knowledge of the specifics of that" military regulation that currently declares any gender-affirming clinical or surgical treatment to be evidence of a "psychosexual condition" and reason to be discharged.
Bush's comments echo those of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who took office in January, and shortly thereafter said that he was "open-minded" about updating the policy, which can be done without congressional action, at the discretion of Carter, the Pentagon, or the president as commander-in-chief.
Carter and his predecessor, Chuck Hagel, expressed reservations about whether transgender Americans could serve in "austere environments" with limited medical or hygienic resources, though an ever-growing body of evidence -- including that from the 18 other nations that currently allow trans citizens to serve openly -- indicates that there is "no compelling medical reason" to bar trans people from serving. Most recently, the American Medical Association called for the policy to be revised, passing a resolution that declared the current policy pointless.
As the Pentagon continues to deny that there is any review of the trans military ban currently under way, several branches of the U.S. Armed Forces are taking matters into their own hands.
On June 5, officials with the U.S. Air Force announced that transgender identity -- or a diagnosis of gender dysphoria -- alone will no longer require a service member to be discharged, if there are no disciplinary issues or other areas of concern.
The Air Force also followed the lead of the U.S. Army by elevating the level of the commander who ultimately decides whether a trans service member should be kicked out. The U.S. Navy is reportedly considering a similar move, which advocates have welcomed as a step toward open service for the estimated 15,500 transgender Americans currently serving in the U.S. military.