WASHINGTON (AFP) – Transgender personnel will no longer be barred from serving openly in the US military, the Pentagon announced on Thursday – a major milestone that immediately drew fire from Republican lawmakers.
Lifting the ban on transgender service members is “the right thing to do, and it’s another step in ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified people,” Defence Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters.
“Good people are the key to the best military in the world.”
The move is the latest in a series of Pentagon personnel reforms under Carter, who has repeatedly stressed the need for the military to modernise to draw from as deep a talent pool as possible.
He last year ordered all military roles – including combat positions – to be opened to women, and has overseen benefits changes to make the military more family friendly.
As recently as five years ago, the US military still banned gay troops from openly discussing their sexuality under a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Today, the Army has an openly gay man, Eric Fanning, working as the service’s highest civilian leader.