Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday night stalled Donald Trump’s order expelling transgender military service members, delaying implementation of the order until further study was undertaken.
The Department of Defense has received the Presidential Memorandum, dated August 25, 2017, entitled “Military Service by Transgender Individuals.” The department will carry out the president’s policy direction, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security. 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. The soon arriving senior civilian leadership of DOD will play an important role in this effort. The implementation plan will address accessions of transgender individuals and transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military.
Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield. To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction. Panel members will bring mature experience, most notably in combat and deployed operations, and seasoned judgment to this task. The panel will assemble and thoroughly analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable. Further information on the panel will be forthcoming.
Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction. In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place. I expect to issue interim guidance to the force concerning the president’s direction, including any necessary interim adjustments to procedures, to ensure the continued combat readiness of the force until our final policy on this subject is issued.
Last week, the ACLU, Outserve-SLDN and Lambda Legal, and NCLR and GLAD announced lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the ban.
NCLR’s Shannon Minter responded to the angle of a USA Today story reporting on Mattis’s statement:
The USA Today story is grossly misleading. Secretary Mattis did not make a decision to “buy time” or to “freeze” the current policy. The President’s August 25, 2017 Memorandum expressly provides that the new ban does not go into effect until March 23, 2018 and expressly states that no one can be discharged for being transgender in the meantime. There is nothing new at all here, and suggesting otherwise is terribly misleading.
This inaccurate reporting is playing into a patently bogus strategy to make it appear that there is going to be some new “study” that will legitimate what is already a forgone conclusion: the discriminatory banning of military service by transgender people, based on a characteristic that has no bearing on their fitness to serve. The August 25 Memorandum is perfectly clear: President Trump has ordered the military to ban transgender people from serving. That ban will go into effect in about 7 months, on March 23. That appalling decision is not (and cannot possibly be, given its timing) based on any hastily assembled, post hoc “study” that is being cooked up now in a transparent effort to provide a retroactive fig leaf for the President’s bigotry. This order is an act of pure animus toward transgender people. The military spent two years carefully reviewing all of the relevant evidence on this issue and concluded that there is no reason to exclude transgender people from military service. The cost of inclusion is literally negligible, and there is no evidence that permitting open service will have any negative impact on military readiness. The notion that there is any good faith “study” being conducted is a blatant pretext for unmitigated, vicious, baseless discrimination.
More than ever, we need reporters to fact check these stories and not simply repeat false information that is being used to set up an attempted cover for one of the most shocking acts of official discrimination the transgender community has ever experienced.
There is no new “freeze.” This is just what the August 25 [Memorandum] ordered — along with a permanent ban on enlistment, effective now, and a new ban on open service, effective on March 23, 2018.