Carter getting pushback from military leaders over easing ban on transgender service members

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Recruits must be free of any contagious diseases or medical, physical, mental or psychological conditions that would limit the person’s ability to perform, to serve in various places and environments, wear required equipment, and cannot require absences due to needed hospitalization or treatment.

Such conditions include heart problems, cancer, night blindness, sleep apnea, schizophrenia, serious cases of hemorrhoids and eating disorders. It also refers in several places to sexual conditions or disorders, include being transgender.

That review, to be completed next year, could provide a mechanism for changing the ban, U.S. officials said.

While the Defense Department has yet to approve any change in regulations, small teams within the military services are gathering information on the issue. And the Army has announced that decisions to discharge transgender service members will now be made at a higher level than unit commander to ensure consistency.

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Advocates for changing the transgender rule point to 2011 when gays and lesbians were first allowed to serve openly and military leaders predicted a rise in hate crimes and harm to unit cohesion and readiness. But officials across the services say none of that has happened.

“There were no signs of problems with unit cohesion,” said David Stacy, government affairs director for Human Rights Campaign. “And, we don’t think this is different in any way.”

Robinson acknowledged the issue raises challenging questions for the military. But she said other nations, including Australia, Canada and Britain, have found solutions.

“All the hard questions have already been answered,” she said. “Unless our leaders commit to a real program of answering these questions, then Americans have no way of knowing if what’s behind this is truly insurmountable challenges or bias.”

The federal government has also moved to expand legal protections for transgender individuals. Last July, President Barack Obama ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the U.S. government or for companies holding federal contracts.

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