In 1950, just two years after President Truman signed an executive order desegregating the United States Armed Forces, the Department of Defense began discriminating against LGB service members. When President Clinton signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993, he hailed it as a step forward, but that law alone was responsible for the discharge of more than 14,500 service members.
The LGBTQ community has stood in solidarity to accept only new legislation that is inclusive since the formation in 2007 of United ENDA, of which PFLAG was a member. One exception to full inclusion but not a violation of that commitment, was the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which was enacted on September 20th, 2011.
With the repeal of DADT, service members could no longer be discharged because of their sexual orientation. Subsequently, the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in United States v. Windsor on June 26th, 2013 determined that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which had the practical effect of denying marriage recognition (and therefore spousal benefits) to LGB service members, was unconstitutional. LGB service members and their families are now entitled to the same benefits.
DADT was never inclusive of transgender people who were already precluded from serving openly, so its repeal had no effect on the existing prohibition of open military service for transgender people. However, community and ally support remains strong to enact open U.S. military service for transgender people, and PFLAG continues to advocate for full LGBTQ military service equality. This FAQ from Service members, Partners, Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All (SPART*A) addresses open transgender military service in the U.S. and worldwide.
Despite the state of laws and DoD policy, some openly trans people do serve and hope to continue to do that. The New York Times commissioned a film about two soldiers -- an openly transgender man (Air Force) and openly transgender woman (Army) -- produced by White House Champion of Change honoree Fiona Dawson titled “Transgender, at War and in Love,” that you can view for free.
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