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Air Force chief suggests transgender ban may eventually be lifted

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visit Minot Air Force Base in Minot, N.D., last month. (AP Photo/Kevin Cederstrom)
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Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James indicated Wednesday that she was open to reviewing the military’s ban on transgender service members.

“From my point of view, anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve,” James told USA Today’s Susan Page. “And so I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t come under review.”

James’s remarks suggest that momentum is once again building for the military to do away with its transgender ban, which remains in place even though gays have been permitted to serve openly since 2011. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and White House officials had expressed an openness to reconsidering the policy earlier this year, but many advocates said progress within the Pentagon appeared to stall this fall.

The Williams Institute, a think tank that studies the gay community, estimates that there are 15,500 transgender members of the military. Over the past two years, advocates say about two dozen people have been dismissed for being transgender. At the same time, many military members say they have noticed a greater openness within their ranks, with some transgender people serving with the knowledge of their peers, superiors and doctors.

In the interview, James said the policy is “likely to come under review in the next year or so. So I think we should stand by, and times change, and we’ll just have to see what happens there.”

You can watch the full interview here.