Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Addresses Transgender Service

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WASHINGTON - Today, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, responded to the news that Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter addressed the issue of military service by transgender people - who are currently prohibited from serving openly - in a town hall in Kandahar, Afghanistan. When asked about transgender service members serving in “austere environments” like Afghanistan, Secretary Carter ended his response by saying, “And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

We urge Secretary Carter to put action to his comments by ordering an immediate review of the outdated regulations that prevent transgender service members from serving our nation openly and honestly,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “As Secretary Carter pointed out, all that should matter is the ability to do the job. Our nation’s transgender service members bravely and heroically serve our nation, and they certainly deserve to be able to be honest about who they are.”

According to transcripts, the question was posed from a service member: “What are your thoughts on transgender service members serving in an austere environment like this here in Kandahar? Secretary Carter responded, “I come at that from a fundamental starting point. It’s not something I’ve studied a lot since I became secretary of defense. But I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country. And I’m very open-minded about — otherwise about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That’s the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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