The Defense Department has updated its military equal opportunity program to protect service members against discrimination because of sexual orientation, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said here today.
Speaking at a DoD-Pentagon Pride Month event, the secretary said the department has made a lasting commitment to living the values it defends, including treating everyone equally.
“We have to focus relentlessly on the mission, which means the thing that matters most about a person is what they can contribute to it,” Carter said.
The update, he said, “ensures 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.”
"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," DoD spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said. Service members now will be able to use command channels, the DoD Inspector General’s Office and the military equal opportunity process, just as DoD civilians are able to use civilian equal employment opportunity programs to resolve discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation, he said.
The department's experience during the years since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was repealed indicates that the military equal opportunity program gives complainants greater access to resolution options, Christensen added, and gives commanders access to trained equal opportunity advisors during the complaints process.
“I'm very proud of the work that the military services have put into this over the last several months,” Carter said, “because discrimination of any kind has no place in America's armed forces.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)