2014-05-11T190458Z_1_CBREA4A1H0C00_RTROPTP_2_USA-NATO-HAGEL

Hagel backs review of U.S. military ban on transgender troops

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivers remarks on NATO expansion and European security at the Wilson Center in WashingtonBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday the U.S. military should review its ban on allowing transgender people to serve openly in the armed forces, saying that “every qualified American” should have an opportunity to serve. President Barack Obama has made lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights a priority during his time in office, and in 2010 signed legislation ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that had prevented gay men and women from serving openly in the military. Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don’t always provide that kind of opportunity.” But in backing a review of the ban, Hagel said: “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.” The National Center for Transgender Equality, a Washington-based advocacy group, said Hagel’s willingness to review the policy was “overdue but very welcome,” as it called the ban “arbitrary and archaic.” The group said thousands of transgender people currently serve in all branches of the military “but are forced to hide who they are or risk losing their careers.” “If the secretary were able to meet and talk with the trans service members I’ve met, he’d understand the answer is self-evident,” Mara Keisling, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

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