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Secretary Of Defense Says Ban On Transgender People Should Be Reviewed

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says he's open to reviewing the military's ban on transgender service members.

In an interview with ABC News, Hagel said while the issue is more complicated than allowing gays in the military because it requires medical support, the policies "continually should be reviewed."

ABC News reports:

"After the 2010 repeal of the policy barring gay and lesbian service members from being open about their sexuality, known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' activists turned their attention to the transgender policy, calling on the military to allow transgender individuals to serve openly. But there has been no review of the ban. Earlier this month, a Pentagon spokesperson told Slate, 'At this time there are no plans to change the department's policy.'

"But in an exclusive interview that aired on 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos,' Hagel said he's now ready to reconsider the ban.

"'I'm open to those assessments, because — again, I go back to the bottom line — every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it,' he said. Transgender issues are 'an area that we've not defined enough.'"

Recently, Buzzfeed reported that the Department of Health and Human Services is reconsidering Medicare's blanket ban on sex-reassignment surgery.

"That could begin changing in the next couple weeks, as an independent HHS review panel hands down its ruling on a challenge to the Medicare ban filed last year by the ACLU, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights," Buzzfeed reports. "Lifting the blanket ban would not necessarily mean Medicare would then cover sex-reassignment surgery, but would make it possible for Medicare officials to consider covering the procedure."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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