The Pentagon is repealing the ban on openly transgender people serving in the military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Thursday.
"This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force," Carter said, according to The Huffington Post. "We're talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can't allow barriers unrelated to a person's qualifications to prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission."
With one of the final unfair military hurdles removed, openly transgender people can finally serve in the armed forces. This change means that service members can no longer be discharged because of their gender identity.
The full policy, which will be implemented in stages over the course of the next 12 months, includes integrating transgender services into the military health system.
The National Center For Transgender Equality estimates that 134,000 American veterans are transgender, and over 15,000 transgender people are serving in the military.
The U.S. will now join 18 other countries that allow transgender people to openly serve in their militaries.
The announcement also comes less than six years since Don't Ask, Don't Tell's repeal, which allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual troops to serve openly.
"Our mission is to defend this country, and we don't want barriers unrelated to a person's qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission," Carter said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "We have to have access to 100% of America's population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified -- and to retain them."
Cover image via Wikimedia / Tech. Sgt. William Greer.