US military begins accepting transgender recruits despite Trump ‘ban’

In a historic development, the US military began accepting openly transgender recruits from January 1, 2018, but it’s not clear for how long.

The date to allow transgender recruits was first set for July 1, 2017 following former President Obama’s 2016 decision to authorise transgender personnel in the military.

The date was pushed to the first day of 2018 in order “to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality”.

It then appeared to be cancelled entirely when President Trump shocked the world in July by announcing on Twitter “that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”

This order, however, was quickly challenged in court in at least four cases, leading to several damning injunctions against the president’s attempt to impose the ban.

As a result the enlistments went ahead as scheduled on Monday. Tellingly, the government has not yet appealed any of the injunctions or requested that the US Supreme Court get involved.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which took the issue to court, described the Pentagon’s confirmation that transgender individuals can now join the military as a “victory”.

This marks the first time in US history that qualified transgender Americans will be authorised to openly enlist in the nation’s armed forces, said the groups in a joint statement.

“This is a major victory in the litigation and great news for transgender troops, transgender military academy and ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) students, and transgender people who have been waiting to enlist,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director.

“There is no reason to exclude transgender people from military service, especially when they have already proved their ability to serve. Transgender people are part of this country, and their willingness to take on the hardships and sacrifices of military service should be honoured, not banned.”

Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director, added: “This is a historic and proud moment for our country. Transgender people have made amazing contributions to our Armed Forces, serving honourably throughout the services including overseas and in combat. We are stronger when the military reflects all of who we are as a nation.”

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, a Justice Department official explained that it was waiting for the Department of Defense (DOD) to release “an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks”.

The official said that, “the administration has decided to wait for DOD’s study and will continue to defend the President’s and Secretary of Defense’s lawful authority in district court in the meantime.”

The LGBTQ groups admitted that the issue is likely far from over and that the Trump Administration will probably still fight to enforce its discriminatory restrictions on transgender recruits and personnel in the future.

“But having transgender people be allowed to openly enlist in the military marks a huge development and hopefully the beginning of the end of this baseless ban,” said Levi.

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