Openly Transgender Troops Can Now Join the Military

Despite the Trump administration’s best efforts, openly transgender troops are now able to enlist in the military.

This comes after the Justice Department announced on Friday, December 29, that it would not appeal several court rulings compelling the DOJ to begin enlistment on January 1.

Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project, explained:

This is a victory for our country and all of the brave men and women who are transgender, and are ready, willing, and able to serve. Thousands of men and women who are transgender are already serving and meeting the same standards of fitness and deployability that apply to everyone else. We will continue to fight for our clients until a final judgment is issued striking down President Trump’s unconstitutional ban for good.

Transgender recruits who were already enlisted have been serving openly since the Obama administration officially changed its policy in June of 2016. However, the rule changes were staggered so that a block on admitting openly trans recruits remained in force, leaving many in enlistment limbo as they waited for the military to finalize their rules.

Those changes were due to be enacted last year, but the Trump administration blocked them. President Trump announced via Twitter that he was ordering the joint chiefs to bar transgender military service  across the board, stating that the military would “not accept or allow” trans people in any capacity.

This announcement was highly unusual because the order seemed to catch military leaders completely off-guard. And save for Trump’s evangelical cohorts, the ban was unpopular even among Republican military stalwarts like Senator John McCain.

Four separate lawsuits challenged Trump’s ban, all of which argued a central point: Trans people are already serving in the military and have done so for many years — even when being trans in the armed forces meant they were summarily dismissed and denied benefits. To act in this manner, and to change the rules when many had believed they could be open about their identity, puts those recruits at risk and harms military readiness.

Some of the court’s opinions have been blunt and openly disdainful of the Trump administration’s course of action on this policy.

In a mid-November ruling, The United States District Court of Maryland called out the ban, stating, “A capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy changes.”

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals most recently denied the Trump administration’s request to delay open enlistment, and, as of January 1, trans recruits can now openly enlist. This isn’t technically the end of the matter, however.

The president has broad jurisdiction over military processes, and unless Congress acts to specifically underpin transgender inclusion in law — something that remains an active possibility and one lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support — we could still see this case rumble on for some time. That’s why the ACLU and other legal groups will continue to push their cases through the courts to ensure that there is a decisive ruling on this matter.

It is undeniable though that with the January 1 deadline having come and gone — and open enlistment now a reality — it will be increasingly difficult for the Trump administration to argue that enforcing such a ban would be beneficial for unit readiness and cohesion. Furthermore, studies have shown that cost of medical care for trans recruits is so small so as to be negligible in the massive military budget.

Trump had no reason to question trans service in the military, but that he chose to act in such a brazen and blatantly unilateral manner is, sadly, no longer surprising.

Photo Credit: Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright/Flickr

52 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thank you

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thank you

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S4 months ago

thanks

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Maureen G
Maureen G4 months ago

Only time will tell if this is a good move or not. Just because a rule or law gets changed doesn't mean that attitudes change overnight.

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Ann B
Ann B5 months ago

Ken H. well said

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Ann B
Ann B5 months ago

Many see this as a victory--i see fear..we deal with racism everyday and in the military you dont think these people wont be targeted?? and what if ever in battle -the torture the enemy will inflict if they discover the changes???not everyone can be a Katlyn Jenner

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Lesa D
Lesa D5 months ago

thank you Steve...

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Toni W
Toni W5 months ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W5 months ago

Informative article thank you!

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