The U.S. Department of Defense has updated its equal opportunity policy to protect gay and lesbian employees and service members from discrimination and harassment.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said sexual orientation has been added to the military’s policy to ensure that the military, like the rest of the federal government, includes sexual orientation alongside race, religion, color, sex, age and national origin in its discrimination policy.
“Recognizing that our openness to diversity is one of the things that have allowed us to be the best in the world, we must ensure that everyone who’s able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so,” Carter said during DOD’s Pride Month Ceremony.
“And we must start from a position of inclusivity, not exclusivity. Anything less is not just plain wrong; it’s bad defense policy, and puts our future strength at risk.”
The move comes nearly four years after the formal end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a 17-year-old law that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
Carter’s statement made no reference to transgender people in the U.S. military, who are still banned from serving openly for what the military terms health reasons. However, the both the Army and Air Force has implemented new policies which require senior civilian officials to approve dismissal of transgender service members, adding an additional hurdle to potential discrimination.
Article continues belowOn Monday, the American Medical Association adopted a policy statement affirming there is no medically valid reason for the U.S. military’s ban on transgender service members.
The Williams Institute, a think-tank at the UCLA Law School that concentrates on issues regarding sexual orientation, estimates there are 15,000 transgender troops serving in the military.