Metro Weekly

Mattis temporarily halts transgender military ban for further study

Pentagon and Homeland Security to convene panel of experts to determine how best to implement ban

Gen. James Mattis – Photo: U.S. Department of Defense.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has temporarily halted President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on transgender service members from going into effect, utilizing power granted to him by the president to call for more time to study the issue.

In a statement, Mattis promised to establish a panel of military experts to study and offer recommendations on how best to implement the president’s ban and ensure that the Armed Forces remain ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice, if needed.

The panel will focus on both the accession of new recruits who are transgender, and on how to address those transgender individuals currently serving who came out under the Obama Department of Defense’s policy.

“As directed, we will develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law,” Mattis said.

Once the panel issues it recommendations, Mattis said he would consult with the Secretary of Homeland Security and then advise Trump on how best to carry out the ban — including any necessary amendments to ensure its legality — without affecting military readiness or negatively impacting unit morale.

In the meantime, the current policy, under which transgender individuals are allowed to serve openly and have their transition-related medical expenses covered by insurance, remains in effect.

Last week, Trump sent guidance to the Pentagon outlining his wishes regarding the ban’s implementation, but gave Mattis the authority to determine whether those already serving would be able to continue in their current positions.

By ceding that authority to Mattis, Trump left open the possibility that some transgender service members would remain in the military, a stark contrast from the across-the-board ban he proposed via Twitter last month.

Since proposing that ban, the president and his close advisors have been harshly criticized by LGBTQ groups, as well as members of Congress, more than 170 of whom wrote a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider the ban.

In that letter, the members of Congress argued that the ban is both discriminatory and unconstitutional, and expressed concern over the impulsiveness that seemed to be fueling the ban, as well as the president’s apparent failure to consult military leaders prior to unveiling his plans for it.

Military officials have privately told The New York Times that they do not see a way to institute the ban without triggering lawsuits. Already, three separate lawsuits have been filed by LGBTQ advocacy groups to halt the ban’s implementation or challenge its constitutionality, 

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