POLITICS
12/11/2014 11:59 am ET Updated Dec 11, 2014

Top Air Force Official Backs Lifting Transgender Military Ban: 'Times Change'

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James believes it's time for the military to review its ban on transgender service members, saying that "anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve."

In September 2011, the military officially repealed its ban on gay men and women serving openly. Transgender individuals, however, are still barred. A March study by the Williams Institute estimated that approximately 15,500 transgender individuals are serving on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve forces. Approximately two dozen service members have been discharged in the past two years for their gender identity.

James said she thinks the ban is "likely to come under review in the next year or so" during an interview with USA Today.

"Times change," she said, adding, "From my point of view, anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve."

In May, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who will soon be stepping down, announced that he also supported reviewing the ban.

"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," he told ABC News.

A recent study led by retired military officers found that the transgender ban could be lifted without imposing a significant burden on the military.

“From a military officer perspective, we consider honor and integrity to be just essential values,” retired Army Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, who helped lead the study, told The Washington Post in August. "But how can we say that when we’re asking these men and women to lie about who they are? That's very comparable to the 'don't ask, don't tell' piece. To me, it's just wrong."

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