US moves to allow transgender troops

US moves to allow transgender troops
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The Pentagon announced on Monday that it intends to lift the ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military. 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the creation of a working group that will work over the next six months to study the implications of lifting the ban. 

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"At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified," Carter said. 

Carter also announced a new policy elevating any decisions to discharge transgender troops up to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson. 

"The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions," Carter said in a statement. 

"Moreover, we have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines — real, patriotic Americans — who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit," he added. 

Carter said the Pentagon has learned from the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as well as from efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military and to open ground combat positions to women. 

"Throughout this time, transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms," he said. 

The announcement comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. 

Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithHouse passes fix to defense bill's medical approval provision GOP chairman 'increasingly' concerned about using old war authorization House passes 2B defense policy bill MORE (D-Wash.), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, welcomed news of the change in a statement before the announcement. 

"The brave men and women who serve in our military should not be excluded from the rights and freedoms that they risk their lives to protect. It's that simple," he said. 

"Incorporating the presumption that transgender individuals can serve openly, without adverse impact on the military effectiveness and readiness, is a step in the right direction," he said. 

Groups advocating for lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender troops also praised the news. 

“We are thrilled the Department of Defense will finally be taking the necessary steps to allow our transgender service members to serve openly and honestly,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association. 

American Civili Liberties Union senior staff attorney Joshua Block said over the past year, although the services have allowed some individuals to serve openly, the regulations on the books kept transgender servicemembers "in a constant state of administrative limbo."

"Everyone has been waiting for senior officials to provide clear leadership on this issue. It sounds like that leadership is coming – and not a moment too soon,” Block said.