A top military official is calling on the Obama administration to end the Department of Defense’s ban on transgender troops.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James signaled Wednesday that transgender people may be allowed to serve openly in the military sooner than later.
The transgender ban is likely to be “reassessed” at some point over the next year, James told USA Today in an interview published Wednesday.
“Times change,” James said.
“From my point of view, anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve,” she added.
Gay and lesbian soldiers have been allowed to serve openly in the military since the Obama administration struck down the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011.
But the protections did not extend to transgender troops.
James is reportedly the first secretary of a military branch to come out in favor of ending the ban on transgender troops.
Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelInterpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 escapes Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE said he was “open” to reviewing the policy in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” in May.
But James’ comments are giving new momentum to the push from gay rights advocates to end the military’s transgender ban.
“It is only a question of when, not if, the outdated, discriminatory ban on transgender troops will be lifted,” said ACLU legislative representative Ian Thompson.
Aaron Belkin, director of the gay rights organization the Palm Center, called her comments a “positive step.”
“But President Obama is the commander-in-chief and is ultimately responsible for setting policy, and it is imperative for him to clarify his position as well,” Belkin said.
There may be as many as 15,500 transgender troops secretly serving in the military, according to estimates from the Williams Institute at UCLA.