The Pentagon is drawing up plans for the biggest change in the U.S. military since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: the end of the ban on open transgender military service, beginning July 1, according to reports by USA Today and ABC News.
The decision directly affects only a tiny fraction of the military’s 1.3 million active duty members, although no formal number is known. But the plan became an issue in the presidential campaign when Republican candidates lambasted it as a “social experiment.”
USA Today, which broke the news Friday, cited officials at the Department of Defense in reporting what is sure to be a controversial decision, ending years of secret shame and unfair treatment of transgender troops who risked court-martial and dishonorable discharge. It also will end months of infighting among the services on how best to accommodate both trans service members who want to serve openly, and address concerns from cisgender (non-trans) troops.
Top personnel officials reportedly will put the finishing touches on their plan to repeal the ban at a meeting set for Monday, according to ABC. The plan would then go to the deputy secretary, Bob Work, according to what USA Today described as an official familiar with the timetable who spoke on condition of anonymity. The green light to end the ban would ultimately be given by Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense.
It was Carter who announced last year that he’d end the ban unless a review by the armed forces revealed that doing so would have “adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness.”
If that timetable holds, the formal announcement would come just before the Fourth of July weekend begins.
According to the official who spoke to USA Today, each branch of the armed services would be directed to put new policies in place over the next 12 months that would impact recruiting, housing and uniforms for transgender troops.
“Our transgender service members and their families are breathing a huge sigh of relief,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, President of the American Military Partner Association, in a statement issued Friday:
“Soon, anyone who is qualified will finally be able to serve our great nation, regardless of their gender identity. We are eagerly anticipating the details of this historic announcement, and we are incredibly grateful for the leadership Secretary Carter has shown in getting us to this critically important point for our military families.”