Washington: US President Donald Trump has signed a memo instructing the Defence Department to stop accepting transgender people into the armed forces, following through on his intentions announced a month earlier to ban such individuals from serving.
The presidential memorandum signed on Friday officially requests the Pentagon to develop an implementation plan for the ban by February 21, 2018, to be put in place on March 23, 2018, reports The Hill magazine.
The memo bars transgender people from enlisting, but instructs Secretary of Defence James Mattis and the Homeland Security “to determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving based on military effectiveness and lethality, unitary cohesion, budgetary constraints, applicable law, and all factors that may be relevant”, according to a White House official.
It orders the Pentagon to stop paying for gender reassignment surgeries, except in cases that are already in progress to “protect the health of an individual”.
However, the official declined to say whether current transgender troops would be allowed to remain in the military or not, reports CNN.
He rejected any notion that the memo amounted to discrimination against transgender individuals, and insisted that Trump was not walking back his rhetoric from the 2016 campaign when he vowed to fight for LGBTQ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer — Americans.
“The President is the President for all Americans, and during last year’s campaign he was the first Republican nominee to talk about LGBTQ issues at the party convention…
“He’s going to continue to ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ community, as well as all Americans, is protected…This policy is based on a series of national security considerations,” the official added
In July, Trump in a series of tweets said: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
The White House offered no guidance at the time as to how the ban would be implemented.
Trump’s decision reversed a policy initially approved by the DOD under former President Barack Obama, which was still under final review, that would have allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.
According to an official study, the number of transgender people in the US military currently is between 1,320 and 6,630.
Meanwhile, the move has received widespread criticism, reports The Hill magazine.
The GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and the National Centre for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) — which jointly filed a federal suit on August 9 on behalf of five transgender troops contesting the ban — called it a “senseless and unprecedented attack on dedicated service members who have played by the rules”.
GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi said the policy is “a shameful slap in the face to people who put their lives on the line everyday to defend our country”.
The two groups also plan to file a motion in a Washington D.C. district court.
The transgender ban policy also faces intense opposition from top Republican senators, dozens of retired generals and admirals and advocacy groups.