The decision to discharge transgender soldiers from the Army would be made by a top, senior civilian official under a plan outlined in a draft document obtained by USA TODAY.
The move would make it more difficult to remove such troops from the service.
Instead of being made by lower-level Army officers, the memorandum says, the decision to discharge transgender soldiers would be made by the assistant secretary of the Army for personnel. In all services, transgender troops can be automatically dismissed from service on medical grounds once they are identified.
“Assigning responsibility for discharge decisions to a senior official would be a welcome step toward inclusive policy, but transgender troops will still have to serve in silence until more is done to dismantle the ban,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, which has published research on sexual orientation issues in the military.
The Army had no comment about the memo, known as an All Army Activities directive, or the level at which decisions on dismissing transgender soldiers had been made, said Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman. Senior Defense department officials confirmed that the Army is considering the change. The new directive would expire after 12 months, or sooner, if a broader reinterpretation of the Army’s rules about transgender soldiers is issued.
The Army’s decision echoes the military’s dismantlement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allowed gays and lesbians to serve unless their sexuality was discovered. Before the policy was rescinded in 2011, the decision to discharge gay troops had been raised to the Pentagon’s top lawyer and personnel official and service secretaries. In effect, that requirement functioned as a moratorium, as no further dismissals were sought under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
SOURCE: Tom Vanden Brook