Obama, Biden Hosting LGBT 'Pride' Reception at White House Today

By Susan Jones | June 24, 2015 | 9:26 AM EDT

President and Mrs. Obama host a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month in the East Room of the White House on Monday, June 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will host an LGBT "Pride" reception at the White House Wednesday evening. On Tuesday, a reporter noted that "at least two transgender service members" will be there, and he asked White House spokesman Josh Earnest if Obama will use the occasion to call for an end to the U.S. military's ban on transgenders.

"I wouldn't anticipate an announcement like that tomorrow," Earnest said.

"I will reiterate the president's view, and it's one that is shared by his secretary of defense, and it's that Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to do so and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."

Last week, The New York Times reported that two California Democrats -- Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. Mike Honda -- are making separate pushes to allow transgenders to serve in the military.

Speier reportedly is working on legislation to reverse the ban on transgenders, and the newspaper said Honda is gathering signatures for a letter he plans to send Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Earnest told reporters on Tuesday that the Obama administration has "long acknowledged that considering these kinds of policy changes also involves considering the process for implementing them.

"And the -- the job of advocates on the outside is to apply pressure and to try to speed that process. But it's the responsibility of those, particularly those who are leading our military, to ensure that any policy that is decided and implemented is clearly within the best interests of the -- of the United States military and our men and women who volunteer to serve this country."

Speaking to U.S. troops in Afghanistan in February, Defense Secretary Carter was asked about "transgender service members serving in an austere environment" like that in Kandahar.

"I come at that from a fundamental starting point," Carter replied. "It's not something I've studied a lot since I became secretary of defense.  But I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country.

"And I'm very open-minded about -- otherwise, about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That's the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don't think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them."

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also said the idea of allowing transgenders in the military "continually should be reviewed."

"I'm open to that, by the way," Hagel told ABC's "This Week" in May 2014. "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. This is an area that we've not defined enough.”

Hagel told ABC’s Martha Raddatz the transgender issue is “a bit more complicated” than homosexuals in the military “because it has a medical component to it. These issues require medical attention,” Hagel said.

“Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don't always provide that kind of (medical) opportunity.”

At last year's Pride reception, President Obama recounted all he's done for LGBT Americans, and he announced that he would sign an executive order prohitibing discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Also See:
WH: We 'Welcome' Defense Secretary's Remarks About Transgenders Serving in Military
Transgenders in the U.S. Military: ‘I’m Open to That,’ Hagel Says