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Pentagon Finally Lifts Transgender Military Ban

The Pentagon announced it was ending the ban on transgender people serving in the military on Thursday. Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivered the announcement after completing a yearlong study.

It was originally announced that the decision would come by the end of May, but it was delayed by over a month. Transgender soldiers can no longer be discharged from service on the basis that they are transgender. Service members who are transgender will now have access to trans related healthcare. Coverage will now include hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery if doctors determine the treatments are medically necessary.

“OUR MISSION IS TO DEFEND THIS COUNTRY AND WE DON’T WANT BARRIERS UNRELATED TO A PERSON’S QUALIFICATION TO SERVE PREVENTING US FROM RECRUITING OR RETAINING THE SOLDIER, SAILOR, AIRMAN OR MARINE WHO CAN BEST ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION.”

New service members must be considered “stable” in their gender identity for 18 months in order to be allowed to serve. “Our mission is to defend this country and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” Secretary Carter said on Thursday at the Pentagon. “In taking the steps, we are eliminating policies that can result in transgender members being treated differently from their peers based solely upon their gender identity, rather than upon their ability to serve and we are confirming that going forward we will apply the same general principles, standards and procedures to transgender service members as we do to all service members.”

Opponents of the move including Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are saying they want “answers from the nation’s uniformed military chiefs on Pentagon’s new transgender policy,” while promising hearings to address the new policy. McCain was upset that the Defense Department never gave him a “heads-up” on the major military policy change. “It seems maybe they’re maybe more interested in the publicity value than really getting something accomplished, because something like this will require legislation,” said McCain.

“NOW PEOPLE “CAN SERVE WITHOUT HAVING TO LIE ABOUT WHO THEY ARE” AND BE “PROVIDED THE MEDICAL CARE THEY NEED.”

The move was praised by advocates such as Aaron Belkin, founder and executive director of the PALM Center, an organization that has been working towards lifting the ban for the past three years. Belkin called it a “historic day.” Now people “can serve without having to lie about who they are” and be “provided the medical care they need,” he added.

Though the Pentagon will start implementing the policy immediately, the entire rollout of the policies will take a year. Carter advised he received input from transgender service members, experts and medical professionals outside of the Department of Defense. 18 other countries currently allow transgender members to openly serve.

View the full announcement in the video below from CBS News:

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