The Trump administration's ban on transgender individuals serving in the military solidified this week when the Pentagon issued a strict policy that limits military service to people that identify only by their biological birth gender, reports ABC News.
"With all legal hurdles cleared, the Pentagon has instituted a new transgender policy that largely limits the military service of transgender persons currently in uniform to their birth gender," reports the outlet. "If they are unwilling to do so, they could be discharged."
The transgender military ban has faced scores of legal hurdles ever since President Trump announced it in 2017. In January of this year, a federal court ruled that lower courts had no authority to block it. The three-judge panel argued that considerable deference is owed to the executive branch on military policy, noting that the ban on transgenders was not a "blanket ban" and that it had been fine-tuned by Pentagon officials.
"The government took substantial steps to cure the procedural deficiencies the court identified in the enjoined 2017 presidential memorandum," the panel said, adding that the partial ban "plausibly relies upon the 'considered professional judgment' of 'appropriate military officials,' and appears to permit some transgender individuals to serve in the military."
The finalized version of the ban on transgenders disqualifies from service "transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria," and specifically those who “may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery,” except in “certain limited circumstances."
In July 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Trump administration's appeal of an injunction against its ban on transgender individuals in the military imposed by a lower court. The administration had requested the Ninth Circuit review — and potentially overturn — the injunction, but its request was denied.
The newly-minted Pentagon policy signed into law by David Norquist on Tuesday puts a very strict code of conduct on transgenders currently serving in the military, according to a memo obtained ABC News, allowing them to serve only "if they adhere to the dress and grooming standards of their biological gender." Secretaries in charge of military services can give waivers only on a "case-by-case basis." Transgenders serving in the military will also no longer be provided with medical transition surgeries.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said the Pentagon should be prudent about implementing the new policy until courts have given a final determination, given that it still faces several lawsuits. "It would be prudent for acting Secretary Shanahan to delay implementing the Mattis policy until the courts have made their final determinations," he said. "Any other course of action not only undermines military readiness, but is also an insult to transgender individuals who have served and are still serving with distinction," he continued. "Anyone who is qualified and willing should be allowed to serve their country openly. Make no mistake, this is a discriminatory ban on transgender people, not a ban on a medical condition and we will continue to fight against this bigoted policy.”
Transgender activists have largely expressed outrage over the new policy, saying that it hearkens back to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era.
"Today the Trump administration has chosen prejudice and politics over the truth of open service as revealed by the testimonies of dozens of medical and military leaders and the service and sacrifice of 14,700 transgender service members," said Aaron Belkin, the head of the Palm Center. "In almost three years of open service these troops built a strong record of achievement and earned the support of every service chief. The Trump administration is determined to bring back 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' a policy that forced service members to choose between serving their country and telling the truth about who they were."
At the time of the ban's announcement in 2017, a viral video featuring an Army veteran explained that people with gender identity issues should not serve in the military due to the job's high-stress nature.
"It’s your choice to do with your body what you wish, but the military is not there to serve as a social experiment, nor pay for transgender transitioning cost related to hormone replacement therapy, or sex change operations," said the veteran. "The military serves as a fighting force that guards this nation and does not need to be burdened with the extreme changes it would be required to undergo to accommodate such a small demographic."