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STUDY: Is U.S. Military Ready for Open Trans Service?

STUDY: Is U.S. Military Ready for Open Trans Service?


The movement to overturn the military's ban on open service by transgender people continues to gain momentum, putting pressure on the Defense Department to act.

The U.S. military could bring an immediate end to the ban on transgender service members, according to a new report.

In the study, released this week, a nine-member commission determined that allowing open service by transgender people would be "neither excessively complex nor burdensome." This new report comes five months after a similar study debunked the outdated medical rationale for the ban.

The commission -- which included retired Major General Gale S. Pollock, retired Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender, and retired Brigadier General Thomas A. Kolditz -- issued a statement Monday, urging the Defense Department to take quick action on its recommendations.

"We spent three months serving on a research commission that investigated administrative aspects of transgender military service, with a view toward maintaining readiness and alignment with core military values of dignity and respect," the statement read. "Our conclusion is that allowing transgender personnel to serve openly is administratively feasible and will not be burdensome or complicated. Three months have passed since Defense Secretary Hagel announced a willingness to review the military's ban on transgender service, an effort the White House indicated it supports. Our new report shows that implementation could proceed immediately and will be successful in its execution."

During a May interview, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told ABC News' Martha Raddatz that he was "open" to reviewing the military's ban on transgender members. The statement came as a surprise to many, as the standard response from Defense Department officials until that point had been, "At this time there are no plans to change the department's policy and regulations which do not allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military." Many viewed Hagel's new statement as a rare victory for the oft-overlooked movement to end the ban.

"Repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' didn't directly affect trans people because it only addressed sexual orientation," Gulf War veteran Autumn Sandeen wrote in a March op-ed for The Advocate. "Regulation alone now stands between transgender service members and the ability to serve openly as trans people. In the struggle for open military service for all LGBT service members, we should not -- we morally cannot -- leave trans service members behind.

"Good service members who are trans just want to do their jobs and serve their country," Sandeen continued. "Instead, they face unemployment, loss of valuable benefits such as the GI Bill, and a discharge characterization that can harm them for the rest of their lives if they're discovered. Changing DoD policies for trans people so that they can serve openly would allow the DoD to enlist and retain many highly qualified, talented, and motivated individuals."

As the current ban is not a law, but rather a department policy, the Defense Department and White House have the ability to put an end to this rule without relying on action from Congress. Though pressure is mounting and evidence is piling up in support of open service, the Department of Defense has yet to take action on the issue.

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