LGBT Group to Obama: Sign Executive Order Opening Military to Transgenders

By Penny Starr | March 14, 2014 | 8:21pm EDT

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force seized on an advocacy group's report on transgender military service Thursday to call on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order allowing transgender men and women to serve in the military.

“We commend the commission for stating independently what we all know: there is no compelling medical reason to exclude trans people from serving their country, and transitions would place almost no burden on the military,” Rea Carey, executive director of the task force, said in a press release . “The President should sign an executive order to lift the transgender military service ban.

“It’s time to finish the job on repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ once and for all,” Carey said.

The report was compiled by what an “independent commission,” headed by former Clinton-era Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, who was asked to step down after recommending schools teach children about masturbation as a way to avoid spreading AIDS, according to the Associated Press.

“The five-member panel, convened by a think tank at San Francisco State University, said Department of Defense regulations designed to keep transgender people out of the military are based on outdated beliefs that require thousands of current service members either to leave the service or to forego the medical procedures and other changes that could align their bodies and gender identities,” the AP reported.

"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 stated.

"Medical standards for enlistment are generally designed to ensure that applicants are free of conditions that would interfere with duty performance, endanger oneself or others, or impose undue burdens for medical care. The regulations, however, bar the enlistment of transgender individuals regardless of ability to perform or degree of medical risk," the commission said in its report.

"Unlike other medical disqualifications, which are based on modern medical expertise and military experience, the transgender enlistment bar is based on standards that are decades out of date," the report added.

The report compared sex-change surgery and other treatments transgenders undergo to health care services that are routinely provided for all troops.

"The prohibition on medically necessary cross-sex hormone treatment is inconsistent with the fact that many non-transgender military personnel rely on prescribed medications, including anabolic steroids, even while deployed in combat zones, and is based on inaccurate understandings of the complexity, risks and efficacy of such treatments," the report said.

"Regulations that prohibit transgender service members from obtaining medically necessary gender-confirming surgery are harmful to the service members and inconsistent with policy concerning other reconstructive surgeries that service members are allowed to have," it added.

"I hope their takeaway will be we should evaluate every one of our people on the basis of their ability and what they can do, and if they have a condition we can treat we would treat it like we would treat anyone else," Elders told the AP.

But Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent, nonpartisan public policy organization focused on military/social issues, told that the Palm Center is an “LGBT advocacy group,” not an “independent commission” acting outside of the center and its purpose.

Founded in 1998 as the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, the group changed its name to the Palm Center in 2006 in recognition of a $1 million endowment from the Michael D. Palm Foundation.

“It’s a longstanding view or opinion on this issue from a small group of people,” Donnelly said.

She said the lobby for transgender military service is also driven by the idea that sex reassignment surgery, hormone therapy or other treatments would become a military benefit.

“The paramount goal is self-interest,” Donnelly said, adding that the change to military law would be “yet another social experiment.”

According to AP, “the commission argued that facilitating gender transitions ‘would place almost no burden on the military,’ adding that a relatively small number of active and reserve service members would elect to undergo transition-related surgeries and that only a fraction might suffer complications that would prevent them from serving.”

“[The report] estimated that 230 transgender people a year would seek such surgery at an average cost of about $30,000,” AP reported.

However, the Department of Defense is not planning any changes.

"At this time there are no plans to change the department's policy and regulations which do not allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military," the AP quoted Navy Lt. Cmdr. and DoD spokesperson Nate Christensen as saying.

Among the countries that allow transgender service members are Australia, Canada, England and Israel, according to AP.

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