WASHINGTON — The White House has ordered a heavily restricted policy of permitting some transgender individuals to serve in the military, following recommendations provided earlier this year by Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Pentagon acknowledged.
President Donald Trump issued the new order late Friday, saying he accepted the recommendations sent to him in February by Mattis in a 48-page memo.
When or if the new policy will take effect is unclear, since court challenges against a ban are now underway in at least four federal district courts.
“We are out to build the most lethal service,” Mattis told Pentagon reporters Monday when asked about the ban. “Right now, because these are matters under litigation, I’m not going to discuss them further. I think the statements stand on their own right now.”
Mattis made the remarks to a pool of Pentagon reporters during the arrival ceremony of Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi.
Last July Trump ordered a complete ban on the recruitment of transgender individuals. He later ordered a halt to the military paying for surgeries to adjust sexual identities.
“Among other things, the policies set forth by the Secretary of Defense state that transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria, individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances,” the president’s memo said.
No firm numbers as to how many current members of the military are transgender have been made public; Pentagon officials repeatedly say they do not know that number. In 2016, the Rand Corp. estimated there are up to 6,630 transgender individuals serving.
The president said in his memo that his transgender policy results from what Mattis “in the exercise of his independent judgment, has concluded should be adopted by the Department of Defense,” according to the Pentagon. The memo also said that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whose department has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, agreed with the recommendations.