A report released Thursday has concluded that a decades-old policy banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. armed forces should be ended, arguing there is “no compelling medical reason for the ban.”
The report recommended that President Obama issue an executive order lifting the ban.
An independent panel led by former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, a former coast guard health and safety director, found that the ban was based on outdated and discredited scientific theories about transgender individuals. It also found that the ban prevents transgender men and women already serving in the armed forces from getting necessary medical care.
“We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components,” the commission said.
The panel also responded to arguments that providing care such as hormone therapy and surgical procedures would be disruptive. Doing so “would place almost no burden on the military.”
When the Pentagon ended its ban on gay and lesbian service members in 2010, the transition was widely seen as a smooth transition and a huge success. However, the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell still left an estimated 15,500 transgender soldiers serving in secret. The challenges facing them were highlighted last year when Pfc. Chelsea Manning announced she was trans after being sentenced to 30 years in prison for leaking classified information to Wikileaks.
Despite the recommendation, a spokesman for the Department of Defense told the Associated Press it has no plans to change its policy.