Image: Pentagon Gay Pride Event Marks New Era of Gay Rights in Military

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Melanie Batley   |   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2015 12:42 PM

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces,” Carter said, adding that the military needs “to be a meritocracy.”

“Recognizing that our openness to diversity is one of the things that [has] allowed us to be the best in the world, we must ensure that everyone who’s able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so,” he said. “And we must start from a position of inclusivity, not exclusivity.”

Steve-Josh-Snyder-HillThe change will mean that complaints about discrimination based on sexual orientation will be investigated by the Military Equal Opportunity program, which is also the office that investigates other forms of discrimination such as race, religion, color, sex, age and national origin.

“With this policy revision, we are now ensuring that service members are afforded protection against discrimination in the department’s military equal opportunity program, provided to all military members,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, according to USA Today.

Before the change in policy, gay and lesbian troops were forced to register discrimination complaints with inspector general offices.

The change in policy, however, does not apply to transgender soldiers, the LA Times reported, and LGBT groups called on military leaders to extend the protection so that they, too, could serve openly.

“It’s incredibly important to note that we absolutely cannot leave our transgender service members behind,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, the group’s president, said in a statement, according to the LA Times. “We again urge Secretary Carter to also order a full and comprehensive review to update the outdated regulations that prevent transgender service members from serving.”

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