Army Makes It Harder to Dismiss Transgender Soldiers

AP Photo/U.S. Army 640, bradley, chelsea manning
AP Photo/U.S. Army
Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC — A change in policy issued by the Army Friday evening will make it harder to dismiss transgender soldiers, according to advocate groups.

Various media outlets reported on the new directive.

“The Army issued a directive Friday that protects transgender soldiers from being dismissed by mid-level officers by requiring the decision for discharge to be made by the service’s top civilian for personnel matters,” reported USA Today. “The Army’s new policy is the latest indication that the military’s ban on transgender troops may be eased or even lifted.”

USA Today was the first news outlet to report the possibility of a change in the way the Army handles the dismissal of transgender troops.

“In essence, the announcement [on Friday] places a moratorium on dismissals by requiring officers to explain their decision to discharge a transgender soldier to a high-ranking civilian leader, a move many would view as potentially damaging to their careers,” explained USA Today. “The Pentagon took the same tack when it backed away from its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that banned gay and lesbian troops. It required a review of decisions to discharge gay troops by the department’s top lawyer and service secretaries, and no further dismissals occurred.”

The Army downplayed the recent change.

According to the service branch, the new directive does not change the policy toward transgender people, who are barred from serving in the military.

“The Army policy concerning separation of transgender soldiers has not changed,” said Lt. Col. Alayne Conway, a spokeswoman. “By elevating disposition authority, the action will ensure consistency in the application of existing Department of Defense and Army policy.”

Nevertheless, transgender advocate groups hailed the new directive as “groundbreaking and historic,” noting a similar change occurred months before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy barring gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military, reported The Washington Post.

Transgender rights groups said the new policy makes it harder for the Army to dismiss transgender soldiers.

The Army did not issue an official statement announcing the new directive.

Under a Department of Defense (DoD) regulation, transgender individuals are prohibited from openly serving in the military. The Pentagon does not need congressional approval to change that policy because it is a regulation, not a law.

Last month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he was “very open-minded” about transgender people serving in the military.

The Army, which is the largest branch of the U.S. armed forces, is the first of the services to announce a change to the policy dealign with the dismissal of transgender troops.

“In a sign that there has not been a whole-scale change in the military’s treatment of transgender service members, the Army terminated a transgender soldier just hours before the change was announced,” noted The Washington Post. 

Last month, the Army approved hormone treatments for Bradley Manning, a transgender soldier convicted of leaking national security secrets

Air Force Secretary Deborah James said she favors lifting the ban on transgender troops.

“Some groups oppose lifting the policy barring transgender service on the grounds that it could hurt military cohesion and readiness,” noted The Post. “Transgender advocacy groups, however, say there is no basis for such fears.”

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