Pentagon signs directive to implement transgender military ban

Getty Images

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that a directive has been signed to implement President Trump’s policy barring most transgender people from serving in the military.

Under the policy, transgender people who join after it takes effect will have to serve in the gender they were assigned at birth. Service secretaries will be allowed to grant waivers on a case-by-case basis.

The policy will go into effect in 30 days, according to the memo signed by acting Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.{mosads}

The directive is being issued after a court last week lifted the last of the orders preventing the transgender military policy from taking effect.

A federal judge in Maryland ruled he had no choice but to lift the injunction after the Supreme Court in February ruled 5-4 to lift two other holds.

The Trump administration said it planned to move forward with the policy following the judge’s ruling last week.

Still, advocates for transgender troops have argued the Pentagon is constrained by a fourth injunction, pointing to a stipulation in the order that allows for a period of time for the plaintiff to decide whether they want a rehearing in front of the court’s full bench.

“With brazen disregard for the judicial process, the Pentagon is prematurely and illegally rolling out a plan to implement the ban when a court injunction remains in place prohibiting them from doing so,” said Jennifer Levi, the director of the Transgender Rights Project of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). GLAD is serving as co-counsel in the lawsuit at issue.

“In addition to being unlawful, moving forward with this ban is also deeply immoral and deeply insulting to the many transgender troops who are bravely serving their country,” Levi added.

That 21-day period, though, ends before the memo signed Tuesday says the new policy takes effect.

Transgender troops have been serving openly since June 2016, when the Obama administration lifted the previous ban on their service.

In July 2017, Trump tweeted he would reverse that policy, saying he would “not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

Four lawsuits were filed against the ban, and lower courts in all four cases issued injunctions blocking the policy from taking effect while the suits made their way through the court system.

In March 2018, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis released a policy that would allow transgender people to serve if they did so in their biological sex. Tuesday’s directive implements the Mattis policy.

The policy will grandfather in currently serving transgender troops or anyone who has already signed an enlistment contract, allowing them to continue serving openly.

But after April 12, people diagnosed with gender dysphoria will not be able to serve unless a doctor certifies they have been stable in their biological sex for 36 months, have not transitioned to the gender they identify with and are willing to serve in their biological sex.

If they are diagnosed after they join the military, they have to continue serving in their biological sex.

Troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria can be discharged if they are “unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with their biological sex,” the memo says.

The Pentagon denies the Mattis policy is a ban, but advocates argue it effectively is, comparing it to the defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.

Though courts have ruled to lift the injunctions, they have not ruled on the underlying merits of the lawsuits against the policy. Advocates are vowing to continue their fight, expressing confidence they will eventually be victorious.

“Our transgender siblings-in-arms and future warriors have proven time and again that they are committed, that they are ready, and that they are able to selflessly and effectively serve our nation,” said Andy Blevins, the executive director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a statement. “We will continue to fight until open and authentic military service is the law of the land – our service members deserve it and our country needs it.”

Tags Donald Trump James Mattis
See all Hill.TV See all Video