Pentagon officially delays transgender troop enlistment policy

Pentagon officially delays transgender troop enlistment policy
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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico Trump needs a national security adviser who 'speaks softly' US could deploy 150 troops to Syria: report MORE decided Friday to delay for six months a plan that would allow transgender people to enlist in the military, The Associated Press reported.

In a memo, Mattis reportedly said that the six months would allow military leaders to ensure that the policy change will not disrupt the preparedness of the country's military forces.

LGBT advocacy groups blasted the decision, saying it would impede the military's ability to attract soldiers.

“Members of Congress are denigrating the value of military service by transgender troops, and Service Chiefs are pressuring Secretary Mattis to continue the transgender enlistment ban despite having no new arguments or data to back up their long-discredited assertions,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the LGBT think tank Palm Center. “Stonewalling on full inclusion will, just like ‘don't ask, don't tell,’ compromise military readiness.”

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“Each day that passes without the policy in place restricts the armed forces’ ability to recruit the best and the brightest, regardless of gender identity,” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) press secretary Stephen Peters said in a statement.

The Army and Air Force had previously asked the Defense Department for a two-year wait period before transgender individuals are allowed to enlist.

Transgender people already serving in the military are currently allowed to do so openly, but no new recruits have been permitted to join.

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted a longtime ban barring transgender people from serving in the military last year. At the time, he set a July 1, 2017 deadline for the military to allow transgender individuals to begin enlisting.

While that decision means that current service members cannot be discharged from the military for openly being transgender, it also put a hold on recent college graduates and others from beginning their service.

A group of 16 House Democrats had sent a letter to Mattis on Friday urging him not to delay accepting transgender recruits in the military ahead of the Saturday deadline.

Updated: 10:57 p.m.