Washington Markup

Transgender Military Ban Takes Center Stage

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:41pm

In an interview with Martha Raddatz on ABC's This Week on Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he believes current military regulations that prohibit transgender individuals from serving openly in the military should be reviewed.

We couldn't agree more. A review of the outdated and discriminatory exclusion is long overdue. While the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has allowed gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people to serve openly throughout the Armed Forces, the thousands of transgender people currently serving must do so in silence.

In March, a commission co-chaired by former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders released a report concluding that the current ban on transgender military service is not based on sound medical reasoning. The report further found that eliminating the ban would advance numerous important military interests, including enabling commanders to better care for their service members.

Transgender people have a storied history in our military. Former ACLU client Diane Schroer is a perfect example. Diane was an Airborne Ranger qualified Special Forces officer who completed over 450 parachute jumps, received numerous decorations including the Defense Superior Service Medal, and was hand-picked to head up a classified national security operation. She began her transition after retiring as a Colonel following 25 years of distinguished service in the Army.

In fact, the largest national survey of transgender people to date, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, found that that about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military.

It's time to let people like Diane serve openly. As Secretary Hagel said, 'every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.'

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