Pressure Mounts on Defense Secretary to Order a Comprehensive Review
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: March 6, 2015
Media Contact: Sue Fulton
Washington, DC – The U.S. Army announced today it is elevating authority to discharge transgender service members to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), the highest level at which that authority has ever been reserved. Prior to today’s announcement, local unit commanders were authorized to approve transgender soldiers’ separation orders. This step mirrors similar measures taken by the Department of Defense in the final months of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that once barred gays and lesbians from serving in the military.
“Today’s action by the Army helps over 6,000 transgender soldiers serving in silence. It also helps their commanders, who are increasingly stymied trying to apply 1970’s medical policy to today’s Army,” said Allyson Robinson, former Army captain and SPARTA Director of Policy. “While transgender service members welcome this step, they recognize it is only a stopgap measure aimed at making a failing policy fail less. What they and their commanders need is a comprehensive, Department-level policy review.”
Today’s action comes as the Pentagon faces mounting pressure from within and without to address its outdated policies on transgender military service, and less than two weeks after Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made supportive remarks on the topic at a meeting with troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. “With this step, Army Secretary McHugh adds his voice to that of Air Force Secretary James and other current and former military leaders signaling that the policy needs to be fixed," Robinson said. “Secretary Carter has already indicated support for transgender service members; he needs to turn those words into action and order a top-down review to get to a policy that works for our military.”
The steps taken by the Army today offer no relief for over 9,000 transgender personnel serving in silence in the Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps.
About SPARTA: Founded in 2013, SPARTA is an association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who currently serve or have served in the U.S. armed forces and their families. Our mission is to advocate for and support our actively serving LGBT service members, veterans, and their families. As a membership organization, SPARTA exists by and for the LGBT military community. The name SPARTA originated as an acronym for “Servicemembers, Partners, and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All.”