The Pentagon announced Thursday that it was lifting its ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, another step in a landmark period for the LGBT community and the U.S. armed forces.
According to estimates, there are likely several thousand transgender individuals serving in the military, The Associated Press reported. These people will now be allowed to remain in the service; previously, they could have been forced to leave. For any active service member, any medical treatment a transgender person's doctor deems necessary, including reassignment surgery, will be covered by their military medical health insurance. As my colleague Jorge Rivas previously reported, this was the critical issue for the transgender community besides the existence of the ban itself.
And one year from now, openly transgender people will be able to enlist as long as they have been, in the Defense Department's words, "stable in their identity" for 18 months.
“This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force,” Carter said in a statement. “We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission."
As the Republican nominee, Donald Trump will likely be asked how he feels about this move. GOP supporters previously booed an out gay soldier at a debate in 2011. He has not yet commented on the new policy but has said he supports the rights of transgender people.
Carter's announcement comes five years after the Obama administration ended the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gay people serving in the military. Earlier this year, Eric Fanning became the first openly gay secretary of the U.S. Army.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.