US military in limbo over Obama transgender order

January/February 2018
On July 1, 2016, the Obama Administration directed the U.S. military to allow transgender soldiers to serve openly within the ranks, and set the date for active recruiting and inclusion of transgender persons to start a year later. It did not escape notice that Obama waited until the eleventh hour of his presidency and then set a date that would take effect under his successor. Just hours before the July 1, 2017 mandate arrived, a sixmonth delay was announced by the Department of Defense to allow for additional study. A few days later, Rep. Vicky Hartzler attempted to amend the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) in order to block any defense spending for gender reassignment therapies or surgeries for soldiers. The amendment was defeated with a 209- 214 vote. It is estimated that although transgender soldiers make up considerably less than 1 percent of the military, this change in military policy will cost taxpayers around $3.7 billion over the next ten years. On July 26, 2017, President Trump announced that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” In an August 25 Presidential Memorandum, Trump outlined that actively serving troops who came out as transgender under Obama’s directive can continue to serve until the results of a Pentagon study are published on March 23, 2018. Since transgender inclusion had been decreed unilaterally by President Obama, it seemed reasonable that as Commander-in-Chief Trump could also make an executive decision to reverse the new policy. Apparently, one judge didn’t think so. On October 30, 2017, a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, issued a preliminary injunction against plans for rolling back the inclusion policy and demanded that the military begin accepting new transgender recruits by Jan. 1, 2018. The Justice department has since requested several emergency stays, which have been denied by the same judge. As outside observers watch to see this judicial overreach battle play out, the military and its service members remain in limbo.
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