The news is the latest in a string of similar removals of blockades to military service over the last several years. In 2011, President Barack Obama announced the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that denied gay people the right to serve openly, and last year, the Pentagon opened all combat roles to women, who had previously been restricted from serving on the front lines.
“We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or marine who can best accomplish the mission. We have to have access to 100% of America’s population,” Carter said at a press conference at the Pentagon.
“Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honor and distinction. We want to take the opportunity to retain people whose talent we’ve invested in and who’ve proven themselves,” he added.
At least 11,000 trans people currently serve in active duty, according to a Pentagon estimate, but until now, they’ve been required to identify and maintain uniform standards that correspond to their biological sex, the Atlantic notes. Under the previous rules, openly identifying as trans was grounds for discharge.
The reversal takes place immediately for troops who are currently serving, meaning the threat of discharge is no longer in place. For newly enlisting service members, the new rules will take effect in a year, NBC reports.