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Discriminating Against LGBT Troops Puts National Security At Risk, Defense Secretary Claims

Defense Secretary Ash Carter extended equal opportunity protection to sexual minorities at the Pentagon’s fourth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride event Tuesday.

Gay and lesbian troops can now make claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation to the Military Equal Opportunity program, rather than inspectors general, USA Today reports.

According to Carter, what matters in the military is meritocracy. Discrimination has no place, as excluding LGBT troops, especially from serving their country, threatens national security.

“Anything less is not just plain wrong, it’s bad defense policy that puts our future strength at risk,” Carter noted.

“With this policy revision, we are now ensuring that servicemembers are afforded protection against discrimination in the department’s military equal opportunity program, provided to all military members,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen told USA Today.

Army general Randy S. Taylor, master of ceremonies for the event, carried the proceeds forward by introducing his husband to the crowd. Taylor only came out as gay after the Pentagon removed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2011 which previously allowed sexual minorities to serve, so long as they were not open about their identity. Taylor thanked his husband for all his years of forbearance and the crowd cheered as Carter shook his hand.

A following panel discussion included lesbian chapel and transgender Amanda Simpson, who can serve on the civilian side as executive director of the Office of Energy Initiatives in the Army. Simpson, who transitioned from male to female, informed the audience she wasn’t the first openly transgender political appointee because of her orientation. Simpson maintained the meritocratic nature of the appointment.

What’s important to note is that the military can still remove transgendered troops for health reasons. Nevertheless, the Air Force is slowly trying to make the discharge process more difficult. Last Thursday, the Air Force moved the authority further up the chain of command, as previously a unit’s commander and doctor could make the decision if an airman were diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

“Though the Air Force policy regarding involuntary separation of gender dysphoric Airmen has not changed, the elevation of decision authority to the director, Air Force Review Boards Agency, ensures the ability to consistently apply the existing policy,” Daniel Sitterly, a spokesman for the Air Force’s Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said in a statement.

The Army put in place a similar policy earlier this year.

Carter did not indicate whether the ban on transgenders will be lifted in the military, though a review on health policy is in the works. The review, which takes 12-18 months, does not specifically focus on transgender issues.

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