Capping a busy day of news, the White House Friday night issued a new directive to ban most transgender people from serving in the military.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the new document supersedes President Trump’s announcement in July that he’d prevent transgender people from serving. That statement took the Pentagon and top generals by surprise, and the various branches were not prepared to implement it. Many commanders said they were waiting to take action until they understood the order. Trump offered some leeway when he formally issued the command in August, asking Secretary of Defense James Mattis to present an implementation plan by February 21, 2018.
“The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security have concluded that the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria—those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery—presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Friday. Because of ongoing litigation, however, the effects of the order are not clear.
The Obama administration ordered the armed forces to be open to transgender enlistees, effective July 1, 2017. Mattis had been expected to recommend that transgender servicemembers be allowed if they could deploy overseas. Commanders were also reportedly reluctant to throw transgender members out of the military, even if new recruits were prevented. But Friday’s White House memo states that they will be “disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”