President Donald Trump on Friday signed a directive reinstating a ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military, although it defers to the Pentagon on whether to remove those now in uniform and leaves open the door for it to seek changes.
Trump’s directive, issued to the Defense and Homeland Security Departments, reinstates a prohibition of transgender service members lifted last year, putting a formal stamp on a politically divisive change in military personnel policy that Trump first announced last month.
It also bars funding to pay for gender-reassignment surgeries except when “necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.”
The guidance gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis until Feb. 21, 2018, to submit a plan for implementing the new policy. It also leaves decision of whether to remove current troops to Mattis.
The White House memo also leaves the door open for further changes in the transgender policy, stating that Mattis may advise him on changes.
“The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted,” the memo states.
Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced in June 2016 the ban on transgender troops would be lifted. Mattis, however, delayed implementation of the policy for new recruits by six months to allow for further study.
Trump first revealed he would reverse the policy in a series of tweets on July 26, announcing transgender individuals would not be allowed “to serve in any capacity” in the military.
Trump’s announcement last month on Twitter that he planned to reverse the Obama policy was hailed by some conservatives who argue that the military has become a social experiment.
But it also drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans, who argue the policy shift is discriminatory and would disrupt military readiness.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White Friday confirmed in a statement that the department had received the guidance but provided no further details.
“The Department of Defense has received formal guidance from the White House in reference to transgender personnel serving in the military,” White said. “More information will be forth coming.”
Experts predict that implementation of the ban will prove a lethal thicket and predict a series of court challenges that will likely delay the policy.
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