Defense Secretary Ashton Carter

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced today that the department has extended its nondiscrimination ordinance to include gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers.

“[We’re] ensuring that the department, like the rest of the federal government, treats sexual orientation-based discrimination the same way it treats discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, age and national origin,” Carter said in a statement.

While the ordinance amends the military’s equal opportunity policy to prevent LGB soldiers from discrimination and harassment, it, however, does not include gender identity or expression. Currently transgender service members are unable to openly serve, despite the 2010 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which barred lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from serving openly. The repeal additionally did not include nondiscrimination protections for trans soldiers.

“We appreciate the leadership of Secretary Carter in advancing this unfinished business of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal which is an important step to ensure LGB service members are treated equally,” said Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “To reach our goal of full LGBT equality in the military, it’s also crucially important that the ban on transgender service members be lifted by updating outdated regulations that prevent them from serving openly and honestly.”

In a statement, the American Military Partners Association also praised the announcement while urging further protections for the estimated 15,500-transgender service members who are still unable to serve openly.

“This long overdue and critical change to the military equality opportunity program will help ensure that LGB service members are treated fairly with the dignity and respect they deserve, ” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “But it’s incredibly important to note that we absolutely cannot leave our transgender service members behind.”