June 17, 2015 at 11:24 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Navy may raise authority to discharge trans sailors
transgender, service members, gay news, Washington Blade

The Navy may elevate the authority needed to discharge a sailor for being transgender. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Navy may soon join the Army and Air Force in making it more difficult to discharge a transgender service member by raising the authority needed to discharge someone based on gender identity.

Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, a Navy spokesperson, confirmed for the Blade the potential change was underway. The news was first reported by Military.com.

“The Navy is looking to elevate the administrative separation authority for transgendered personnel to ensure that this important issue receives the right level of review,” Schwegman said. “Any proposed changes would not affect the level of discharge authority for other instances of administrative separation.”

There’s no timeline for a decision on the matter, Schwegman added.

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” enabled openly gay people to serve in the U.S. military, but transgender people are still barred from service because of medical regulation. DOD Instruction 6130.03 calls for separation of service members who undergo gender reassignment or have “psychosexual conditions” that include transvestitism or transsexualism.

In March, the Army raised the discharge authority for transgender soldiers to a senior civilian official — the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

Earlier this month, the Air Force announced it would elevate the discharge authority for transgender expulsions to the Secretary of the Air Force Personnel Council for recommendation, then to the Air Force Review Boards Agency director for a decision. Moreover, a discharge from the Air Force for self-identyfing as transgender isn’t automatic and a separation must be supported by a report from a mental health expert.

The change within the Navy would make the Marine Corps the only service that hasn’t elevated its authority to discharge someone for being transgender. According to Military.com, a Marine Corps spokesperson said the service isn’t looking at changing the authority to separate Marines at this time.

Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said she’d welcome the change, but the time has come for the U.S. military to lift its prohibition on transgender service completely.

“Raising the level of authority required to discharge a transgender sailor is certainly a step in the right direction and would bring the Navy in line with the Army and Air Force,” Broadway-Mack said. “However, it does not change the ultimate risk of being fired that transgender troops continue to face simply for being open and honest about who they are. We need the Department of Defense to update the outdated regulations across all branches of service that continue to harm our transgender service members and their families.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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