Military's transgender ban may be lifted before the Fourth

After a delay that has lasted several months the Pentagon is planning to publicly announce the repeal on its ban on service by transgender troops on July 1.

Top personnel officials plan to meet as early as Monday to finalize details of the plan, and Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work could sign off on it by Wednesday, according to a Defense official familiar with the timetable but who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly about it. Final approval would come from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the announcement will be on the eve of the Fourth of July weekend.

The plan would direct each branch of the armed services over a one-year period to implement new policies affecting recruiting, housing and uniforms for transgender troops, one official said.

There is at least one unhappy camper in Congress. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chair of the Armed Services Committee is concerned. He says he has unanswered questions:

“What would be the projected cost of changing the transgender service policy? To what extent would military barracks, ship berths, gym shower facilities, latrines, and other facilities have to be modified to accommodate personnel in various stages of transition and what would be the projected cost of these modifications?

How far is the Pentagon going to go to provide medical treatment for transgender troops, “including behavioral health treatment, cross-hormone therapy, voice therapy, cosmetic or gender reassignment surgery and other treatments?

--Thornberry

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon says that officials responded to Thornberry last September.

Several issues relating to repeal of the ban have proven to be contentious, according to officials familiar with the review but not authorized to speak publicly about it. One sticking point has been how long transgender service members would have to serve before being eligible for medical treatment to transition to the other gender.

If reports are correct, I believe Secretary Carter has put the political agenda of a departing administration ahead of the military’s readiness crisis.

--Thornberry

The Pentagon commissioned a RAND Corp. report on transgender troops but has not released it. It estimated that there are fewer than 2,500 transgender service members, 65 of whom would seek medical treatment each year.

The Pentagon has not tracked the number of troops dismissed under the policy.

Ashley Broadway-Mack, the president of the American Military Partner Association, a support network for partners and spouses of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops and veterans, said in a statement that “our transgender service members and their families are breathing a huge sigh of relief.”

At long last, thousands of brave transgender patriots will be able to serve our nation openly with the respect they deserve. This historic announcement will not only extend long-overdue recognition to thousands of transgender service members, it will strengthen our military and our nation.

--Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign

There is every indication that senior military leaders know that the 35-year-old policies on transgender service are out of date and need to be changed.

--Sue Fulton, SPARTA

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