White House backs Pentagon chief on transgender troops

The White House on Monday backed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's remark that transgender people should not be precluded from military service because of their sexual identity.

“The president agrees with the sentiment that all Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to serve,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing.

“For that reason, we here at the White House welcome the comments from the secretary of Defense,” he added.

On Sunday, Carter said he was “very open minded” about the idea of transgender people serving in the military.

“I don't think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them,” he said during a town-hall event in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Even though the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed years ago, allowing openly gay people to serve, there is still a ban that blocks transgender people from serving in the armed forces.

Last year former Defense chief Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelThe Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report Billionaires stopping climate change action have a hold on Trump, GOP MORE said that the ban should be “continually reviewed.”

Earnest declined to comment on what “additional steps” might be taken on the policy, referring questions to the Pentagon.

One military group on Monday applauded Carter’s position.

The Pentagon chief is “right in that their ability to serve is the only thing that should matter,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement.

“Thousands of transgender service members are currently doing the job, and doing it well, but are forced to do so in silence — forced to lie about something as fundamental as who they are in order to continue to serve,” she added.