President Trump on Friday moved to formally ban most transgender people from serving in the military, with limited exceptions.
The White House issued a memorandum on policies determined by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, stating that transgender people are “disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.”
The memorandum, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, states that “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”
Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will have some leeway in implementing the policy, the memo stated.
LGBT advocates quickly denounced the move.
“There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are pushing their extreme anti-transgender prejudices onto the military over the overwhelming objections of bipartisan officials, national security leaders and the American public,” Griffin added.
“The Trump-Pence administration’s continued insistence on targeting our military families for discrimination is appalling, reckless, and unpatriotic,” added American Military Partner Association president Ashley Broadway-Mack.
The Palm Center, a group that promotes the study of LGBT people in the military, accused the Pentagon of having “distorted the science on transgender health to prop up irrational and legally untenable discrimination that will erode military readiness.”
“There is no evidence to support a policy that bars from military service patriotic Americans who are medically fit and able to deploy. Our troops and our nation deserve better,” the group said.
Trump first called for a ban on transgender troops in a series of tweets last summer, and followed up in August by issuing a memo banning transgender people from enlisting.
The ban has since been battled over in court, with Mattis in February giving Trump a final recommendation. It was expected that he would recommend Trump allow transgender troops to remain in the military.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on Mattis’s recommendation in February, only confirming that the Defense chief had advised the president on the subject.
Several federal courts blocked Trump’s initial ban, with one ruling in November that the military would be forced to resume accepting transgender recruits starting this year.
In February, the Pentagon confirmed that one transgender recruit had joined a branch of the military after passing all tests including medical, the first such recruit to join since the ban was issued.
It’s unclear what Trump’s decision will mean for that unnamed recruit and the estimated thousands of other transgender Americans currently serving active duty in the military.
While the exact number of transgender individuals in active duty service is unknown, a 2016 Rand Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon estimated the number to be anywhere from 1,320 and 6,630, with 830 to 4,160 others serving in the reserves.