Transgender Recruits Allowed to Enlist 12/12 06:32
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Transgender recruits will be allowed to enlist in the
military beginning Jan. 1, the Pentagon said, as President Donald Trump's
ordered ban suffered more legal setbacks.
The new policy divulged Monday reflects the difficult hurdles the federal
government would have to cross to enforce Trump's demand earlier this year to
bar transgender individuals from the military.
Three federal courts have ruled against the ban, including one Monday in
In October, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly barred the Trump
administration from proceeding with its plan to exclude transgender people from
military service. Part of the effect of the ruling was that the military would
be required to allow transgender people to enlist beginning Jan. 1.
The government had asked Kollar-Kotelly to put the Jan. 1 date on hold while
it appealed her full ruling but she declined Monday, reaffirming the Jan. 1
start date. The Department of Justice is now asking a federal appeals court to
intervene and put the Jan. 1 requirement on hold.
Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict
set of physical, medical and mental conditions that could make it difficult for
them to join the armed services.
Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said the enlistment of
transgender recruits will begin next month and proceed amid legal battles. The
Defense Department also is doing a review, which is expected to carry into 2018.
Eastburn told The Associated Press on Monday that the new guidelines mean
the Pentagon can disqualify potential recruits with gender dysphoria, a history
of medical treatments associated with gender transition and those who underwent
reconstruction. But such recruits are allowed in if a medical provider
certifies they've been clinically stable in the preferred sex for 18 months and
are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other
Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy must be stable on their
medication for 18 months.
The requirements make it challenging for a transgender recruit to pass. But
they mirror concerns President Barack Obama's administration laid out when the
Pentagon initially lifted its ban on transgender service last year.
"Due to the complexity of this new medical standard, trained medical
officers will perform a medical prescreen of transgender applicants for
military service who otherwise meet all applicable applicant standards,"
Aaron Belkin, director of the California-based Palm Center, an independent
institute that has conducted research on sexual minorities in the military,
said the 18-month timeline is fair.
"It's a good standard because the Pentagon is treating gender dysphoria
according to the same standards that are applied to all medical conditions," he
However, Elaine Donnelly, president for the Center For Military readiness,
said Trump "has every right to review, revise, or repeal his predecessor's
military transgender policies, which would detract from mission readiness and
combat lethality." Court judges, she said, are not qualified to run the
The Pentagon move Monday signals the growing sense within the government
that authorities are likely to lose the legal fight.
"The controversy will not be about whether you allow transgender enlistees,
it's going to be on what terms," said Brad Carson, who was deeply involved in
the last administration's decisions. "That's really where the controversy will
Carson worried, however, that the Defense Department could opt to comply
with a deadline on allowing transgender recruits, but "under such onerous terms
that practically there will be none." Carson, who worked for Ash Carter as the
acting undersecretary of defense for personnel, said requiring 18 months of
stability in the preferred sex is a reasonable time.
"It doesn't have any basis in science," he said, noting that experts have
suggested six months is enough. "But as a compromise among competing interests
and perhaps to err on the side of caution, 18 months was what people came
around to. And that's a reasonable position and defensible."
Sarah McBride, spokeswoman for Human Rights Campaign, praised the court's
ruling, saying that it affirms "there is simply no legitimate reason to forbid
willing and able transgender Americans from serving their country."