Mattis says transgender soldiers can stay - for now

Thursday, 31 Aug, 2017

Defence Secretary James Mattis has signed a memorandum that allows transgender troops to serve in the military while he studies an order by President Donald Trump banning them from United States forces.

Experts within the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security will make up a panel that will provide recommendations on the implementation of Trump's proposed policy, the release stated.

Additionally, the order directs Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis submit a plan by February 21 on how to handle transgender individuals who are now serving in the military using criteria including "military effectiveness and lethality", budget constraints and law.

Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added the following day that transgender service members already serving will be treated with dignity and respect as the Pentagon sorts out its new policy, but that it would carry out Trump's directive.

Democrats are working on crafting an amendment to the bill that could reverse Trump's directive barring transgender individuals from serving in the military, or at least protect transgender individuals now serving, according to aides and advocates.

But a new piece from Salon points out that reports that suggested the Defense Secretary did something to freeze Trump's transgender ban, actually misrepresent the truth.

The administration has given Mattis the authority to decide whether to retain existing transgender recruits as well as a six-month timeline to lay out a plan to implement Trump's policy.

Yes, Trump's policy is not supposed to go into effect until January 1, 2018 and even then it only applies to sections 2 (a).

Military officials have said privately that they do not see how they can turn back the clock on allowing transgender people to serve without opening the Defense Department up to lawsuits.

Mattis said he expects to issue interim guidance to military leaders concerning the president's directive, but no timetables were provided. Allowing them to serve would not affect military readiness, the study found. The memo signed by Trump last week not only directed Mattis to bar trans people from enlisting, but also gave the defense secretary the power to discharge those already serving.

"Military service is a privilege, not a right", said Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican who lobbied the White House to stop paying for transgender-related medical expenses before Trump announced the ban.