While campaigning in Iowa Wednesday, GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush was asked if he would support allowing transgender people to serve in the military, if he becomes the next president in 2016, the Washington Post reports.
"I'm sure there's a role for everybody to play in the armed forces. I think it would depend on the specific role and whether it's appropriate enough," he said. "The first priority for the military is to create an environment where the morale is high, where people are trained and we have the best fighting force. And if you can accommodate that in that kind of environment, I don't think there's a problem for it."
He added that he was unaware of trans people seeking to enter the military or attempt to block them from joining.
The Post reports there are about 15,500 transgender people serving in the military, according to the Williams Institute.
"The Pentagon has been grappling with how to allow them to continue serving without affecting the morale and cohesion of military units -- a key area of concern in the years leading up to the repeal of the gay ban," the Post writes.
Matt Thorn, the interim director of OutServe-SLDN, an LGBT-rights military group, responded to Bush's comments, saying the issue "should and has been a non-partisan issue. While I welcome Governor Bush's statement on open transgender service, I remain cautiously optimistic."
"I hope that all the presidential candidates, the current administration and [Defense] Secretary [Ashton] Carter embrace full LGBT equality in the military," Thorn told the newspaper. "But they need to listen to the momentum that is happening in the current climate of the era. Transgender service members cannot afford to wait for piecemeal policies. Strong and decisive action is needed now."
The former Florida governor is against marriage equality but says same-sex couples "making lifetime commitments to each other" deserve respect, the Associated Press reported. When asked if he would attend a same-sex wedding of a relative, he said "of course."