Biden backs transgender military service as US weighs policy

Transgender rights were a commanding focus at this year’s gathering of the Human Rights Campaign, whose endorsement and members’ support are eagerly sought in the Democratic primary. With gay marriage now the law of the land nationwide, many gay rights activists have turned their attention to transgender issues, which have burst into the public spotlight only recently.

“We need to say with one voice that transgender people are valued,” Clinton said to a smaller gathering Saturday morning. “They are loved, and they are us.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said the Pentagon’s current regulations banning transgender individuals are outdated and has ordered a study aimed at formally ending one of the last gender- or sexuality-based barriers to military service. The study began in July and is slated to last six months, with an eye toward assessing any impact on the military’s readiness to fight.

But the White House has avoided prejudging the outcome of the review, wary of criticism that Obama is imposing politically driven changes irrespective of the advice of his military commanders.

“They have said that they would conduct this review with a bias in favor of changing this policy,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said after the review was announced over the summer. “The president certainly supports that approach.”

Biden, in his speech, left no such wiggle room.

“It’s simple,” the vice president said. “All Americans are qualified to serve, should be able to serve.”

The vice president made no explicit reference to his pending decision about the 2016 race, which has dragged on beyond his self-imposed deadline.

Biden won praise for endorsing gay marriage in 2012 ahead of Obama or Clinton, becoming the highest elected official to support the politically charged issue. This year, Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and the other Democratic candidates are aggressively courting LGBT voters’ support and working to outdo one another with expressions of support.

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