Credit Drew Perine/The News Tribune, via Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis kicked President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military down the road, announcing that transgender service members will continue to be allowed to serve pending the results of a study.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, Mr. Mattis said that he was establishing a panel of experts, serving within the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department, whose task will be to “provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”
Mr. Trump announced last month in an abrupt series of tweets that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military. The Twitter messages took the Pentagon by surprise, and since then, Defense Department officials have been trying to cobble together a policy that takes into account their desire to allow currently serving transgender people to remain, while at the same time following the dictates of a commander in chief who, by most accounts, had not put a lot of study into the ramifications of his instructions.
Credit Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Last week, Mr. Trump signed the directive precluding transgender individuals from serving, but gave Mr. Mattis wide discretion in determining whether those already in the armed forces can continue to serve. By putting the onus on Mr. Mattis, the president appeared to open the door to allowing at least some transgender service members to remain in the military, contrary to his initial tweet that all would be disallowed.
Mr. Mattis’s statement on Tuesday appeared to open that door further.
“Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of homeland security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction,” Mr. Mattis said in his statement. “In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.” He said he will issue “interim guidance to the force concerning the president’s direction, including any necessary interim adjustments to procedures, to ensure the continued combat readiness of the force until our final policy on this subject is issued.”
Mr. Mattis’s announcement came as more than 140 House Democrats sent a letter to Mr. Trump calling on him to reconsider his transgender ban. The letter, released Tuesday, argued that the military should not discriminate, and said that enforcing the ban could lead to the loss of jobs for active-duty service members who have served honorably.
“Implicitly, your ban denies the value of transgender service members, and it questions the professionalism of those who serve beside them. Our Armed Forces have grown more equal and more inclusive over time, often in the face of strident opposition,” the letter said. “In 1948, when President Truman moved to racially integrate the military, voices were raised in protest. They were raised again in 2010, when Congress at last repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ At every turn, those voices have been proven wrong.”
Continue reading the main storySource: New York Times – Politics