Reversing an Obama-era military policy that would have permitted the enlistment of transgender service members, the Pentagon--headed by Defense Secretary James Mattis--announced it would delay the lifting of the ban in order to determine if the progressive policy would affect the "readiness or lethality" of the force, according to a Defense statement. As a result, officials have until Jan. 1, 2018 to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military.
In a memo sent to service chiefs and secretaries, Mattis said the department must evaluate "each policy decision against one standard," referring to whether the openness would affect the military's ability to defend the U.S.
However, Mattis also cautioned those from thinking that his delay of the policy's implementation translates into a particular outcome. The retired Marine Corps general affirmed that more review time will ensure he has "the benefit of the views of the military leadership and of the senior civilian officials who are now arriving in the department."
The Friday announcement was met with mixed reaction. Those from human rights campaigns, such as Stephen Peters of the Human Rights Campaign, said, "Each day that passes without the policy in place restricts the armed forces' ability to recruit the best and the brightest, regardless of gender identity."
Jerry Boykin, a retired Army lieutenant general and executive vice president of the Family Research Council, lauded the military chief's decision, saying that the Pentagon has the "right" to stall policy that "will fail to make our military more capable in performing its mission to fight and win wars."
Allowing trans members to openly serve in the military surfaced public consciousness in June 2016 when Obama's Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the lifting of the gender ban "is the right thing to do for our people and for the force."
“We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission."
The deferment of the transgender military policy isn't the first Obama directive to face challenges under the Trump administration. At the beginning of his term, President Trump rescinded a landmark guidance to public schools to allow transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice.
Learn about the transgender cop trying to make her department more LGBT-friendly.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.