There have been so many historic breakthroughs for equality in the U.S. military in the Obama era, it’s worth pausing to remember that when President Obama took office, gay and lesbian soldiers were prohibited from serving openly, transgender Americans were banned altogether, and women were excluded from combat units.
Today, all of those restrictions on service are gone. Politico reported:
Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday said he’s ordering the military to open all combat jobs to women, overruling Marine Corps commanders who requested exceptions for a small number of front-line combat jobs and furthering President Barack Obama’s legacy of making the military more inclusive.“We cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country’s talents and skills,” Carter told reporters at the Pentagon.
So long as an American serviceman or woman can meet the rigorous physical and training standards, he or she will be eligible to serve in all combat role – without exception. As a Vox report added, women will now “be able to drive tanks, fire mortars, lead infantry soldiers into combat, and serve as Green Berets.”
And what about Selective Service Registration? Secretary Carter added today that this is “a matter of legal dispute,” and we may yet have young men and women register upon turning 18, but the outcome will not affect the Pentagon’s broader policy on equality.
And while partisan pushback has been common in response to related Obama administration policies, this time, it appears Republicans are going along without a fuss.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a cautious statement Thursday, saying he planned to review the implications of the decision carefully – but he did not voice outright opposition to it.“We expect the department to send over its implementation plans as quickly as possible to ensure our committees have all the information necessary to conduct proper and rigorous oversight,” said the Arizona Republican. “By law, the Congress has a 30-day period to review the implications of today’s decision.”Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham – also one of the Senate’s leading defense hawks – said he has “no reason to object.”
It really wasn’t long ago that these kinds of changes seemed like a pipe dream. Let’s not take progressive breakthroughs for granted – this is a very big deal.