The Pentagon has delayed implementing the last part of its policy allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in the armed forces.
In June last year, the US Department of Defence allowed transgender personnel already in the military to be open about their gender, but the final measure, scheduled to go into effect on 1 July, was to allow openly transgender individuals to enlist.
Defence Secretary Jim Mattis announced on Friday that the implementation of the move will be delayed for six months, “to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality”.
The Associated Press reported that senior officials had recommended the six month delay to Mattis in order to “gauge if currently serving transgender troops are facing problems and what necessary changes the military bases might have to make”.
Stephen Peters, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Press Secretary, said that the LGBTQ rights organisation was “disappointed in this needless delay”.
Peters, himself a military veteran, noted that “the thousands of highly trained and qualified transgender service members openly and proudly serving our nation today have proven that what matters is the ability to accomplish the mission, not their gender identity”.
He added: “Once this important policy is implemented, it will strengthen our military by allowing qualified and talented transgender people to enlist or commission.”
According to the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the US military, making the Department of Defence the largest employer of transgender people in America.