President Donald Trump on Friday
announced a new ban on transgender people serving in the military.
In a memo issued late Friday, Trump
stated that transgender people “with a history or diagnosis of
gender dysphoria” are “disqualified from military service except
under certain limited circumstances.”
Trump said that he was basing his ban
on the recommendation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Mattis made the recommendation after
creating a panel “comprised of senior uniformed and civilian
Defense Department and U.S. Coast Guard leaders” to study the
“Based on the work of the Panel and
the Department's best military judgment, the Department of Defense
concludes that there are substantial risks associated with allowing
the accession and retention of individuals with a history or
diagnosis of gender dysphoria and require, or have already
undertaken, a course of treatment to change their gender,” Mattis
wrote. “Furthermore, the department also finds that exempting such
persons from well-established mental health, physical health, and
sex-based standards, which apply to all service members, including
transgender service members without gender dysphoria, could undermine
readiness, disrupt unit cohesion and impose an unreasonable burden on
the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and
After Trump first announced the ban in
July on Twitter and ordered the Pentagon to implement it, LGBT rights
groups filed four legal challenges to banning transgender troops. In
each case, a judge has blocked implementation of the ban.
The Pentagon has said that the military
“will still comply with federal court rulings and continue to
assess and retain transgender service members.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, suggested in a statement that
Mattis was ordered to justify Trump's ban.
“It's quite clear this is a complete
ban, and Secretary Mattis was backed into a corner by the
Commander-in-Chief and ordered to come up with a post-hoc
justification for this policy that was based on politics, not any
sort of assessment of where the country is, where military readiness
is and the ability of transgender individuals [serving] openly and
honestly in our military,” said David Stacy, director of government
affairs at HRC.
Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm
Center, which studies transgender people in the armed forces, agreed,
saying in a statement that the Pentagon's panel had “distorted the
science on transgender health” to justify discrimination.
“Today’s announcement fulfills
President Trump’s July 2017 tweet calling for the reinstatement of
the transgender military ban,” Belkin said in a statement. “In
service to the ideological goals of the Trump-Pence base, the
Pentagon has 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.”
Mattis' recommendation complicates
ongoing ligation, because courts generally defer to military leaders
on issues related to the military.