President Donald Trump announced Friday that he’s sticking to his ban on transgender people in the military, even though the Pentagon showed little enthusiasm for the proposal.
In a memo released Friday night, the White House said that transgender individuals are “disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.” The full ban was set to officially take effect Friday, though a pair of federal courts in December ordered the U.S. military to allow the recruitment of transgender citizens into the armed forces despite Trump’s declaration.
“Transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria ― individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery ― are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances,” the memo says.
Trump’s decision to keep the ban comes one month after a Washington Post report suggested that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would urge Trump to allow transgender citizens to continue serving in the military.
Mattis delivered his recommendations to Trump in late February, but their conversation remained private.
In a statement following the memo, the White House said Friday’s announcement allows Mattis to “implement a new policy developed through extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans.”
The White House added that Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have concluded that the “accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria ... presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”
The Trump administration’s controversial transgender military ban has faced opposition at every corner since Trump announced the policy change in a series of surprising tweets last summer.
In July, Trump said he was banning transgender citizens from the armed forces because of the supposed “burden” of their “tremendous medical costs.” (Transition-related care costs the military only a fraction of its overall budget. The Department of Defense spends tremendously more on Viagra for erectile dysfunction than it does on transgender medical costs.)
His tweets, which reportedly took the Pentagon by surprise, were followed by an official White House memo sent to the departments of defense and homeland security that provided details and a timeline for his proposed ban.
The memo required the armed forces to stop accepting transgender recruits by Jan. 1 and halt the use of federal funds for transition-related care for military personnel by March 22.
Despite the memo, the Pentagon began accepting transgender recruits again on Jan. 1, complying with federal court orders calling for a halt to the ban while it was being legally challenged.
In late February, the U.S. military accepted its first openly transgender recruit to sign up for service since Trump’s pronouncement. The Department of Defense confirmed that the recruit had signed a contract for service in the military and would be attending basic training in the coming months.
Even with this new announcement, the Defense Department said it will continue to allow transgender people in the military as ordered by federal courts in several cases challenging the ban.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told HuffPost that the “DOD will continue to access and retain transgender individuals in compliance with the court orders.”
The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the policy on Friday night, insisting that federal courts handling four challenges to the ban, including an ACLU challenge, have blocked the military from carrying it out.
“What the White House released tonight is transphobia masquerading as policy, for the sole purpose of carrying out President Trump’s reckless and unconstitutional ban,” the civil rights organization tweeted.
“It undermines the ability of trans service members to serve openly and military readiness as a whole.”
The Justice Department said in a statement that it supports Trump’s decision to keep some transgender individuals out of the military and called on the federal courts to lift the orders that challenge the new policy.
“Consistent with this new policy, we are asking the courts to lift all related preliminary injunctions in order to ensure the safety and security of the American people and the best fighting force in the world,” the statement reads.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Justice Department and Department of Defense.