Pentagon says it will allow transgender recruits after judge's order

By Allen Cone  |  Dec. 11, 2017 at 2:45 PM
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Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The Pentagon on Monday said it will abide by a judge's decision that transgender military recruits must be accepted into the military by Jan. 1.

Earlier Monday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia refused to give the military more time to implement her October injunction that opposed the transgender ban President Donald Trump announced in July.

Two U.S. district court judges ruled against the ban.

"The court will not stay its preliminary injunction pending defendants' appeal," Kollar-Kotelly wrote Monday. "In sum, having carefully considered all of the evidence before it, the court is not persuaded that defendants will be irreparably injured by allowing the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on January 1, 2018."

In its motion, government lawyers argued that the military will be "seriously and irreparably harmed if forced" to implement the policy by Jan. 1. They said people involved in recruiting needed to be trained in the "complex and multidisciplinary nature" of transgender medical issues.

After the ruling, Pentagon officials told Fox News the enlistment will start Jan. 1, amid the ongoing legal battle.

In new policies, transgender recruits must overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLAD's Legal Advocates & Defenders had sued on behalf of six unnamed service members and two recruits.

"It's time to stop stalling and move forward," Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement.

"The military has had nearly a year and a half to be ready to implement an enlistment policy its own leaders created and adopted. High ranking military leaders who oversaw training when the military made the first changes to transgender service policies have said the military is ready to accept transgender enlistees. This administration needs to stop creating fake problems and get on with it."

Under President Barack Obama, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender service members and allowed them to serve openly in the military. He said transgender people also would be able to enlist by mid-2017.

In July, Trump said, "After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

In August, Trump signed a directive to prohibit people who identify as transgender from serving in the armed forces, and prevented the Department of Defense from using federal funds to provide medical treatment like sex-reassignment surgeries and medications.

The memo wasn't clear whether the Pentagon would allow transgender individuals already in uniform to continue serving, but top military officials have said there are no plans to remove transgender service members.

Last month, the Pentagon said for the first time it will pay for gender-reassignment surgery for an active-duty soldier, because doctors deemed the procedure medically necessary.

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