White House Press Secretary Jay Carney signaled support on Friday for Pentagon efforts to review the ban on openly transgender service in the military, but stopped short of endorsing an end to the policy outright.
Days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on ABC’s “This Week” the military trans ban “continually should be reviewed,” Carney said the White House backs his efforts in response to a question on whether President Obama has had any conversations with the Pentagon chief on this issue.
“Well, the president speaks with Secretary Hagel regularly, meets with him weekly,” Carney said. “I don’t have a readout on all his conversations, but I would certainly point you to what Secretary Hagel said and certainly we support his efforts in this area.”
But efforts at the Pentagon to reconsider the policy seem to have already lost traction. A Pentagon official confirmed for the Washington Blade on Friday that no review of the trans military ban has been ordered.
According to the Washington Post, Hagel told reporters en route to Jeddah he’s disinclined to review the Pentagon’s policy formally, but expressed interest in learning more.
“I’ve not asked for a specific task force,” Hagel was quoted as saying. “I’ve not asked for a specific study. I would want to hear more from individuals who are close to this issue, know this issue, who I would value their judgment and their direction on.”
Moreover, Carney didn’t outright say Obama wants to see the ban on transgender service lifted when asked if he thinks the policy should be changed at some point in time.
“I would simply at this point leave it to Secretary Hagel’s comments,” Carney said. “I haven’t spoken to him directly about this issue, but I would note what Secretary Hagel said and that we support him.”
Nonetheless, transgender advocates praised Carney’s words as a commitment from the Obama administration to move forward with a reassessment of the regulatory ban on transgender service.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Transgender Center for Equality, was among those praising the White House for endorsing of Hagel’s views.
“It is wonderful to hear that the White House agrees with the Secretary about the need to update these outdated and discriminatory policies,” Keisling said. “There are currently 15,000 trans service members. Having reasonable and modern policies that guide their service is in everyone’s interest and is good for military readiness and national security. Clearly this issue is now on the agenda. Now we need to push for a quick analysis and implementation.”
Instituted sometime before 1980, the ban on transgender service is a medical regulation that, unlike “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” could be lifted any time administratively by the stroke of a pen.