US President Donald Trump [official website] on Friday directed [Presidential Memorandum] the Secretaries of the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Homeland Security (DHS) [official websites] to continue prior policies banning transgender individuals from military service. The ban had been lifted [JURIST report] by the Obama administration last July, reversing a long-standing policy that prevented transgender persons from serving in the military and made a transgender identity grounds for discharge. In rescinding this change of policy, Trump said that he was unconvinced that sufficient proof had been presented about the effect of the change on military performance.
In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects.
Trump directed the DoD and DHS to continue preventing service by transgender individuals “until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above” and/or “until such time as the Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, provides a recommendation to the contrary that I find convincing.”
Trump’s directive also instructs the departments to “halt all use of DoD or DHS resources to fund sex reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel, except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.”
Although the memorandum is not effective until January 2018, the departments had previously extended the Obama administration’s July 2017 deadline until January 2018 pending further study.
Trump announced the reversal in policy in a series of tweets on July 26. Five unnamed transgender servicemembers filed suit [JURIST report] in response to the tweets, alleging that re-imposition of the ban would violate the Due Process and Equal Protection components of the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution. The case, seeking injunctive relief, is currently pending before the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website]