WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army announced Friday it is elevating authority to discharge transgender service members to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, the highest level at which that authority has ever been reserved.
An Army spokeswoman emphasized the directive was not a change in policy toward transgender service members, who are barred from serving in the military, reports The Washington Post.
In fact, just hours before the policy change was announced, the Army informed transgender soldier Capt. Jacob Eleazer of the Kentucky Army National Guard that he would be separated effective April 14. Eleazer had appeared in a Washington Post story about transgender service members last year.
However, transgender rights groups lauded the shift, saying it will make it harder for the military to kick out transgender service members in the future.
Article continues belowThe step mirrors similar measures taken by the Department of Defense in the final months of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that once barred gays and lesbians from serving in the military.
Late last month, in a town hall meeting in Kandahar, Afghanista, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter expressed an openness to permitting transgender people to openly serve in the military.
A day later, President Barak Obama endorsed Carter’s remarks, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest.