Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in an interview this week that he is “open” to reconsidering the military’s ban on transgender service members.
“I do think it continually should be reviewed," he told ABC's Martha Raddatz on ABC's "This Week.” “I'm open to those assessments, because, again, I go back to the bottom line, every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it."
While the policy that barred openly gay service members from service in the military, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell,” was repealed in 2010, transgender individuals still cannot serve openly.
But Hagel said he’s now open to reviewing the ban, and that transgender issues are “an area that we’ve not defined enough.”
“I’m open to those assessments, because — again, I go back to the bottom line — every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it,” he said.
Hagel said in the interview that the biggest concern he foresaw was providing medical support to these individuals, especially those stationed in “austere locations.”
Earlier this month, a Pentagon spokesperson told Slate, “At this time there are no plans to change the department’s policy.”
In March, an independent commission led by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders stated there is no "compelling medical reason" for the ban against transgender service members.
"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," read the commission's report.