Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced Tuesday he will form a panel of experts to study how President Trump’s directive to ban transgender military personnel can actually be implemented.
Until then, trans service members — currently about 2,500 active-duty and 1,500 in the reserves — will be allowed to serve.
The panel will include experts from the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, and will “provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction” by February.
After announcing the ban in a series of tweets in July, Trump finally issued a presidential memoranda last week, officially reversing an Obama-era policy that allowed transgender soldiers to serve and, once again, banning the military from recruiting transgender people.
“In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Department’s longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources,” the memo reads. “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.”
The memo — which leaves many of the details up to Mattis — came after Trump’s surprise tweets several weeks ago, citing disruption and costs associated with transgender personnel. Trump left it up to the Department of Defense to determine how to implement the ban.
Politicians, lawyers, and human rights activists have come out in droves against Trump’s policy. On Tuesday, more than 140 House Democrats sent a letter to the president urging him to reconsider the ban, the Associated Press reported. The letter stated there is “no place for discrimination in our Armed Forces or indeed anywhere else in American society.”
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit arguing that it violated equal protection rights of transgender military personnel.
And transgender service members have also filed lawsuits themselves. Five transgender soldiers are suing the president and other top officials for not only violating equal protection and due process rights but also “lacking rational basis” and serving no federal purpose.
“We can defend transgender people in the face of this administration,” Jennifer Levi, a lawyer on the case and the director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders’ Transgender Rights Project, told VICE News in early August. “This is absolutely the start of a really important fight.”