Transgender troops can re-enlist for now, new guidance says

New guidance released Friday by the Pentagon makes it clear that any transgender troops currently in the military can re-enlist in the next several months, even as the department debates how broadly to enforce a ban on their service ordered by President Donald Trump.

In a memo to top military leaders, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said a high-level panel will determine how to implement Mr. Trump’s ban on transgender individuals in the military. Mr. Trump directed the military to indefinitely extend the ban on transgender individuals enlisting in the service, but he left it up to Mattis to decide if those currently serving should be allowed to stay.

Members of Congress have already sent a letter to Mr. Trump calling on him to reconsider the ban.

Sen. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday he backed legislation that would bar the Trump administration from forcing transgender troops out of the armed forces.

McCain of Arizona said in a statement that any service member, including those who are transgender, who meets the standards for military readiness and medical fitness should be permitted to serve.

“When less than 1 percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country,” McCain said.

The bill is an attempt to establish protections for transgender troops in law, cutting off Mr. Trump’s efforts to kick service members out based on their gender identity. Mr. Trump tweeted in July that he would ban transgender troops from serving anywhere in the U.S. military. The directive caught the Pentagon flat-footed as defense officials struggled to explain what they called Mr. Trump’s guidance.

About a month later the president issued more formal instructions, directing the Pentagon to indefinitely extend a ban on transgender individuals joining the military. But Trump also gave Mattis six months to come up with a policy on how to address those currently serving, leaving the door open to permitting their continued service.

Mattis has said the Pentagon will develop a plan that “will promote military readiness, lethality and unit cohesion.”

In his memo released Friday, Mattis said the deputy defense secretary and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs will lead a panel that will determine how the department will implement the ban. Outside experts may be included to provide additional advice. The Pentagon refused to release the memo, but provided a…

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