WASHINGTON, D.C. — Transgender people are now free to join the military, after the Justice Department on Friday said its ban on trans recruits was on hold and that it had no plan to appeal federal court rulings ordering the Pentagon to stop preventing them from enlisting. The change went into effect Jan. 1.
“It’s a victory for trans people, and it’s a victory for the military,” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, told NBC. “There is no reason whatsoever why people who can meet the rigid and very strict standards for enlistment should be barred from doing so simply because they are transgender.”
Trump tweeted that transgender people would no longer be allowed to join the military back in July. That was followed up by a presidential memo in August that attempted to put the ban in place. A series of court cases followed, with ten federal judges blocking the attempted ban.
“The military is allegedly supposed to give its recommendations to President Trump in February,” Block explained. “It’s entirely possible that they would just announce in February that they recommended that President Trump rescind the ban and he accept the recommendation, but that’s all in their hands.”
Block noted that the Pentagon’s own 2015 study demonstrated that transgender soldiers are not a burden to the military, as Trump claimed.
“At the end of the day, the military told Trump not to issue this ban. They warned him, and he did it anyway,” Block said. “Who knows if the president is going to take their recommendations or not.”
Matt Thorn, executive director of the LGBTQ military organization OutServe-SLDN, called the news a “huge win.”
Both he and Block are optimistic about the future, with the wins in court and the belief that as more transgender individuals join the military it will be harder to, as Thorn said, “to put that genie back in the bottle.”
“This is a major victory in the litigation and great news for transgender troops, transgender military academy and ROTC students, and transgender people who have been waiting to enlist,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. “There is no reason to exclude transgender people from military service, especially when they have already proved their ability to serve. Transgender people are part of this country, and their willingness to take on the hardships and sacrifices of military service should be honored, not banned.”
“This is a historic and proud moment for our country. Transgender people have made amazing contributions to our Armed Forces, serving honorably throughout the services including overseas and in combat. We are stronger when the military reflects all of who we are as a nation,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director. “At the heart of this case are brave transgender Americans who stand ready to put their lives on the line in defense of our country. Our nation will only benefit from the service of these courageous individuals. We know this fight is not over. But having transgender people be allowed to openly enlist in the military marks a huge development and hopefully the beginning of the end of this baseless ban.”