- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2017

The Defense Department has given the green light to allow transgender U.S. citizens to enlist into the armed forces, while the White House and federal courts continue to battle over the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s ban on all transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.

Transgender recruits will be allowed to enlist beginning Jan. 1, but will be subjected to a slew of physical, psychological and medical requirements before being considered for military service, Pentagon spokesman Maj. David Eastburn said Monday.

“Due to the complexity of this new medical standard, trained medical officers will perform a medical prescreen of transgender applicants for military service who otherwise meet all applicable applicant standards,” Maj. Eastburn told The Associated Press.

Two U.S. district courts, one in the District of Columbia and Maryland, had blocked enforcement of President Trump’s proposed August ban on transgender persons in the armed services. Those courts required the branches to begin allowing such recruits to sign up for military service, according to a Defense Department statement.

And a third block was issued Monday, by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Washington state. Judge Pechman also allowed the state to challenge the ban, saying Washington has an interest in protecting its residents from discrimination.

Roughly 16,000 transgender individuals now serve in the armed services, according to OutServe-SLDN, a nonprofit group advocating for LGBT rights within the military.

As part of the Trump administration’s proposed ban of transgender individuals from military service in August, the Defense Department is working on an evaluation of how they would serve in various branches.

That department-wide review is scheduled to be completed before the end of March, but in the meantime, planning continues on allowing for sign-ups on Jan. 1, following the court orders.

The Pentagon and Justice Department “are actively pursuing relief from those court orders in order to allow [that] ongoing policy review” to be completed, defense officials say.

The new standards for transgender enlistment, in compliance with the D.C. district court order, include certification that recruits have been deemed “clinically stable” in their preferred sex for 18 months, and do not suffer from marked stress or impairment tied to their selected gender during certain scenarios tied to military service.

Transgender recruits must also show consistent and stable behavior, while on required hormone therapy for an 18-month period, the department’s statement said. Military recruiters also reserve the right to disqualify any recruit that suffers from “gender dysmorphia” or “a history of medical treatment associated with gender transition.”

Transgender recruits can get a waiver from these exclusions if they can certify they have been stably on their “cross-sex hormone therapy” medication and treatment for 18 months, says the Pentagon.

Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter formally lifted the ban on transgender citizens serving openly in the military last year. Under Mr. Carter’s policy, transgender individuals would have been able to enlist into the services by July 2017.

Since then, two federal courts have ruled the White House’s August ban as unconstitutional.

Recruitment of transgender citizens will “be implemented while the Department of Justice appeals those court orders,” according to the Pentagon.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Democrat, praised the Pentagon’s decision to allow transgender recruits to join the armed services, saying Monday the decision “was the right one.”

“If you are willing to risk your life for our country and can do the job, you should have the opportunity to serve — no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Ms. Duckworth, who lost both legs as an Army helicopter pilot during a rocket attack in Iraq in 2004.

“I know that our servicemembers, regardless of their orientation, will continue to execute their missions to the highest standards as they always have,” she added.

The Obama administration’s decision to allow transgendered members was one of several decisions critics claimed were impositions of political correctness into the Defense Department. Other such Obama policies included opening all combat roles to women and lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against openly gay individuals.

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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