Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday said the Pentagon was lifting its ban on transgender troops who wish to serve openly in the U.S. military.
"Starting today otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender," Carter said during a press conference at the Pentagon.
The secretary said there were three main reasons for his decision, including ensuring that the military does not have unnecessary barriers that prevent it from recruiting and keeping qualified people; meeting a responsibility to transgender personnel already serving by issuing clear policy guidelines; and as "a matter of principle."
"Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so," he said. "After all, our all-volunteer force is built upon having the most qualified Americans. And the profession of arms is based on honor and trust."
The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.
"Medically necessary" gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.
"Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions," he said. "In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders' guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care."