“I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”
Sunday, at a town hall in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter answered a question concerning service by transgender people, saying “I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.” The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families, responded to the statement with a call to action urging the Secretary to quickly order the long awaited review of outdated regulations that prevent the estimated 15,500 transgender service members currently in uniform from serving openly and honestly.
“Secretary Carter is right in that their ability to serve is the only thing that should matter,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “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. While we applaud Secretary Carter for being ‘open-minded’ on this issue, we urge him to take action that will lead to ending this ban that continues to harm our transgender service members and their families.”
When AMPA service member LCDR Jesse Ehrenfeld asked, “What are your thoughts on transgender service members serving in an austere environment like this here in Kandahar?” Secretary Carter replied: “I come at that from a fundamental starting point. It’s not something I’ve studied a lot since I became secretary of defense. But I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country. And I’m very open-minded about – otherwise about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That’s the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”
At the White House press briefing on Monday, the Obama administration backed Carter.
“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. “And for that reason, we here at the White House welcome the comments from the secretary of defense. But in terms of — of additional steps that the Department of Defense will take to address this matter, I’d refer you to the secretary’s office.”
“It’s now abundantly clear that both the Commander-in-Chief as well as the Secretary of Defense believe that all qualified Americans should be able to serve. So now is the time for action – action to end the outdated ban harming our brave transgender service members and their families. All qualified Americans – regardless of their gender identity – deserve to be able to serve our nation openly and honestly.”
“In the work I do with AMPA, I see the heartbreaking ramifications this ban continues to have on military and veteran families,” added Gene Silvestri, AMPA Veterans Affairs Coordinator and a transgender U.S. Army veteran. “They are fearful of what will happen. And it affects the children also, not understanding why their parent cannot be their authentic self at work. It hurts the entire family.”
The American Military Partner Association is the nation’s largest organization of partners, spouses, families, and allies of America’s LGBT service members and veterans. With over 40,000 members and supporters, AMPA is committed to education, advocacy, and support for our “modern military families.”