06/08/2015 04:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015

Top Medical Group: 'No Medically Valid Reason' To Block Transgender Individuals From Military Service

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WASHINGTON -- The American Medical Association gave its unanimous approval to a resolution Monday that concludes there is "no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from service in the US military," giving a boost to advocates who want the military to lift its transgender ban.

Although the federal government lifted the ban on gay men and women in 2010, openly transgender individuals are still barred from serving in the military. But a 2014 report by the Williams Institute estimated that about 15,500 transgender people who are not publicly out are serving anyway. Beyond that, there are an estimated 134,000 transgender veterans or retirees from guard or reserve service.

Dr. Brian Hurley, a delegate to the AMA from GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, spoke in favor of the resolution and said he was "thrilled" with the news.

"The entire idea of transgender service members being medically unfit to serve is based on this notion that being transgender means you're medically unfit," said Hurley. "The AMA says that's not true. So I think it has the potential for a tremendous impact. The hope is that it drives the administration and the [Defense Department] to change its policy."

Four former surgeons general -- from both Republican and Democratic administrations -- spoke out in favor of the resolution before the vote. They argued that "transgender service members should, as is the case with all personnel, receive the medical care that they need."

“The new AMA policy adds to a growing public consensus, including former public health and military officers, which questions the military’s policies toward transgender individuals, and the negative impact these policies have on the health of transgender service members,” said Dr. Robert M. Wah, AMA president.

Last week, the Air Force made it easier for transgender airmen to stay in their posts, raising the level of authority necessary to discharge someone for being transgender. Until now, the decision to discharge has rested with a unit commander and a doctor who diagnoses that officer with a medical condition, gender dysphoria. Now, high-level Air Force officials will be required to review the decisions and determine whether an officer's gender dysphoria interferes with duty requirements. The Army has a similar policy.

Pentagon officials are increasingly facing questions about lifting the transgender military ban. In February, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he is "very open-minded" about changing the policy.


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