Defense Secretary Ash Carter today announced that transgender people will now be able to openly serve in the U.S. military.
"This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force," Carter said in prepared remarks released by the Pentagon. "We're talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can't allow barriers unrelated to a person's qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission."
The new policy will be phased in over the course of the next year, in which the Pentagon will finalize "a construct by which servicemembers may transition gender while serving, sets standards for medical care and outlines responsibilities for military services and commanders to develop and implement guidance, training and specific policies in the near and long-term," according to a Defense Department statement.
"At one year, the services will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards," the statement reads. "In addition, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.
Carter said the new policy would likely impact 2,500 active-duty and 1,500 reserve servicemembers.
"Also, right now, most of our transgender servicemembers must go outside the military medical system in order to obtain medical care that is judged by doctors to be necessary, and they have to pay for it out of their own pockets," he said. "This is inconsistent with our promise to all our troops that we will take care of them and pay for necessary medical treatment."