Defense Department Delays Plan to Allow Transgender Recruits

Defense Secretary James Mattis announced at the end of June that the Pentagon’s deadline for allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the military would be delayed six months for review. The announcement came one day before the ban was set to expire as part of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s lifting of the ban on transgender service in the military.

Military officials will now have until December 1, 2017, to conduct a review process to determine whether allowing transgender people to enlist will affect the “readiness or lethality” of the United States Armed Forces. The Defense Department argues that more time is needed to study the unique impact transgender enlistment would have in all four military branches, including whether currently-serving transgender troops are facing discrimination or having trouble meeting the “physical or other standards” of the military.

Though the delay will not affect transgender troops who are already serving in U.S. military forces, who have been allowed to serve openly and receive medical care since last year, transgender people who are not currently in the military will not be able to enlist until the decision is released. But Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, a think tank that has helped the Pentagon with research in this area, said the delay “will put transgender people who want to serve in the same position as gay people who wanted to serve during the now-repealed ban on open homosexual service known as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

The RAND Corporation estimates that transgender troops make up about 2,450 of the approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members. Yet the Pentagon’s announcement comes as the federal government is rolling back civil rights for the transgender community, who account for approximately  1.4 million people in the United States and face frequent discrimination in healthcare, housing, the workplace, and elsewhere.

Media Resources: Associated Press 6/30/17; FMF 2/23/17, 7/1/16; Washington Post 6/30/17; New York Times

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