US Military to allow transgender recruits after Trump administration drops appeal
In deciding not to appeal court rulings, the Trump administration has paved the way for transgender people to enlist in the U.S. military starting Monday.
The Department of Justice withdrew its legal challenge to several federal court rulings that blocked President Trump from banning transgender people from enlisting in the U.S. armed services.
Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said in a statement quoted by Reuters: “As mandated by court order, the Department of Defense is prepared to begin accessing transgender applicants for military service Jan. 1. All applicants must meet all accession standards.”
In July, President Trump tweeted that the United States “will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity” in the U.S. military. Trump also cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
That announcement was designed to upend an Obama administration policy that would have allowed transgender enlistees. In response, LGBTQ legal advocates filed suit. Four federal judges ruled that the president couldn’t enforce the ban, and two federal appeals courts upheld the lower court rulings.
The Pentagon’s announcement means that as of Jan. 1, openly transgender persons will be allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
In a statement, attorney Peter Renn of the LGBT civil rights advocacy group Lambda Legal said advocates “are relieved that we don’t have to hit pause on the constitutional rights of trans people who are willing and able to serve our country.”
On Dec. 22, a panel of the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia refused the Trump administration’s request to let the ban start Jan. 1. Other federal judges have also refused to side with the administration. The Pentagon said then that it would allow transgender enlistment to start with the new year and continue as legal struggles play out.
The Justice Department said late Friday the Pentagon “will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks,” so the administration will not litigate an appeal in the meantime. That stance clarifies that enlistments can start Jan. 1 and existing transgender service members are protected from being discharged at least for now.
“We are relieved that we don’t have to hit pause on the constitutional rights of transgender people who are willing and able to serve our country,” said Peter Renn, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, one of the groups fighting the ban in court.