March 23, 2018 at 3:18 pm PDT | by Chris Johnson
Pentagon pledges to retain trans troops regardless of Trump policy
Pentagon, military, gay news, Washington Blade

The Pentagon has pledged to retain transgender troops regardless of any new Trump policy.
(Public domain photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond)

The White House made no announcement on transgender military service by 5 p.m., but a Pentagon spokesperson insists transgender people will be able to remain in the armed forces whatever President Trump decides.

Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the Washington Blade late Friday the Defense Department will comply with court orders on the issue, which each unanimously ruled the U.S. military must allow transgender military service.

“DOD will still comply with federal court rulings and continue to assess and retain transgender service members,” Eastburn said.

News was expected from the White House today on a new policy on transgender military service. The target date was consistent with Trump’s August memo implementing his ban on transgender military service and prohibition on U.S. military payment for gender reassignment surgery.

As of the time of this posting, the White House had no news about his policy and it was unclear whether it would keep to the target date. The Blade has heard various third-party rumors about the nature of a new policy, but they varied and none was verified and able to report.

As the Pentagon notes, any new policy would be moot because federal courts have determined that transgender people must be allowed to enlist and serve in the armed forces as a result of litigation filed against Trump’s ban by LGBT legal groups. Those court determinations would remain in place even if the ban were changed or lifted. Any new policy inhibiting transgender service — even to a small degree — would almost certainly face continued challenges by LGBT legal groups.

The Pentagon has announced it has already allowed at least two openly transgender people to enlist in the armed forces, contrary to Trump’s policy, in the aftermath of court rulings against his ban.

Defense Secretary James Mattis last month made a recommendation to the president on transgender military service in accordance with Trump’s August memo. Neither the White House, nor Pentagon officials, would disclose the nature of the recommendation, but major media outlets reported Mattis recommended allowing transgender people to stay, which is different from the expected policy.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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