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Pentagon drops ban on transgender troops serving openly

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Transgender individuals are now allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military, ending one of the last bans on service in the armed forces, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday.

Saying ending the ban is the right thing to do, Ash said only a person's qualifications should matter, and that there should be no other unrelated barriers to service.

"The Defense Department and military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now: the finest fighting force the world has ever known," Carter said.

He said access to healthcare is also a key reason for the change in policy.

At least 18 nations -- including the U.K., Israel and Australia -- already allow openly trans troops to serve, Carter said.

Carter's announcement comes despite concerns from senior military leaders that the department is moving too fast and that more time is needed to work through the changes.

The ban's end is effective immediately, Carter said.

By Oct. 1, transgender troops should be able to receive medical care and begin formally changing their gender identification in the Pentagon's personnel system.