Navy grants first waiver to transgender service member under ban
The Navy has granted the military’s first waiver to allow a transgender service member to continue serving openly since the Trump administration banned most transgender military service.
“The acting secretary of the Navy has approved a specific request for exemption related to military service by transgender persons and persons with gender dysphoria,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Brittany Stephens said in a statement.
“This service member requested a waiver to serve in their preferred gender, to include obtaining a gender marker change in Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and being allowed to adhere to standards associated with their preferred gender, such as uniforms and grooming,” Stephens added.
CNN first reported the waiver was granted.
The Pentagon’s current transgender policy went into effect in April 2019 after courts lifted the last of the injunctions that had been blocking the policy.
At least five lawsuits against the policy have been filed, one of which was filed in March on behalf of a Navy officer identified only as Jane Doe.
Lawyers for Doe said Friday she was the sailor granted the waiver, adding the government was due to file its response to the suit next week.
“While we are relieved that our client, a highly qualified naval officer, will be able to continue her service, there are other equally qualified transgender service members who have sought waivers and are still in limbo, despite being perfectly fit to serve,” Jennifer Levi, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders transgender rights project director, said in a statement. “Dedicated military service members shouldn’t have to bring a lawsuit to be able to continue doing their job.”
Transgender troops had been allowed to serve openly since June 2016, when the Obama administration lifted the previous ban on their service.
But in July 2017, President Trump tweeted he would reverse the Obama administration policy, saying he would “not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
Under the Trump administration’s policy, those who came out as transgender under the Obama-era policy are allowed to continue serving openly and receive medical care.
But anyone who comes out now can only continue serving if they do so in their biological sex, unless they are granted a waiver like the Navy recently did.
The Pentagon denies the policy is a ban because of the transgender troops grandfathered in under the previous policy and because transgender people can serve in their biological sex or get a waiver.
But transgender service members and their advocates argue it effectively is a ban akin to the defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that banned open service by gay, lesbian and bisexual people.