The Pentagon is preparing to allow transgender individuals to enlist in the U.S. military beginning Jan. 1 in compliance with a federal court ruling from two weeks ago.
On Monday, the court denied an emergency stay issued by the Trump administration to delay that court order. While the administration continues appealing that decision, the Pentagon is preparing in the meantime to let transgender individuals join the military if they meet certain guidelines.
The Pentagon’s compliance only applies to allowing transgender individuals seeking to join the military to enlist. Separate court actions have temporarily halted the implementation of the Trump administration’s reinstatement of a ban on transgender service members that was to have been phased into place this spring.
“As required by recent federal district court orders, the Department of Defense recently announced it will begin processing transgender applicants for military service on January 1, 2018,” said a Defense Department statement issued Monday. “This policy will be implemented while the Department of Justice appeals those court orders.”
The Pentagon will comply with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s order that it implement the guidelines issued by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2016 when he lifted the ban on transgender service members in the military.
Under those guidelines, applicants will be allowed to join if a medical provider certifies they have been stable without “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” for 18 months.
Similarly, a licensed medical provider must certify that an applicant “has completed all medical treatment associated with the applicant’s gender transition, the applicant has been stable in the preferred gender for 18 months, and if presently receiving cross-sex hormone therapy post-gender transition, the individual has been stable on such hormones for 18 months.”
Applicants who have completed sex reassignment or genital reconstruction surgery must have a licensed medical provider certify that “a period of 18 months has elapsed since the date of the most recent surgery, no functional limitations or complications persist, and no additional surgeries are required.”
“Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy also must be stable on their medication for 18 months.”
“As of right now, they are simply complying with a court order and a previous policy to remain in compliance,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during Monday’s White House briefing. “The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the legal options to ensure that the president’s directive can be implemented, and for anything further, any specifics on both of those matters, I refer you to the Department of Defense and Justice.”
The lawsuit moving through federal court was filed on behalf of transgender service members two weeks after President Trump tweeted in July that transgender individuals would not be allowed in the U.S. military “in any capacity” because of the “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
On Aug. 25, Trump formally signed a memorandum directing the Pentagon to ban transgender individuals from serving. The directive gave the Department of Defense six months to develop an implementation plan that will go into effect on March 23, 2018.
Former defense secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender service members in June 2016 and put in place a one-year review of how transgender recruits could join the military by the following summer.
Current defense secretary James Mattis extended that study in July of this year by six months, however, Trump’s new policy directive has put into question what will happen to current transgender service members and those individuals hoping to serve.
As recently as last week, Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the Pentagon was continuing with its panel that would provide recommendations to Mattis, by February, for how to handle the cases of transgender individuals already in uniform.