Dems urge Defense Secretary James Mattis not to delay military recruitment of transgender individuals

Secretary of Defense James Mattis takes questions during a briefing at the Pentagon, April 11, 2017. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The military is scheduled to begin accepting transgender recruits on Saturday, and 16 House Democrats have set out to ensure that the initiative moves forward as planned. The representatives, led by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., have penned a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis asking him to not delay the process, as military leadership requested last week.

“We strongly encourage you to deny the request for a six-month delay in transgender policy implementation,” a copy of the letter acquired by the Hill states. “There are thousands of transgender individuals in our military today. There should be no further delay in implementing this policy and allowing transgender individuals to serve the country they love.”

“Rep. Huffman has heard directly from constituents who are concerned about Secretary Mattis’ expected announcement and would be prevented from serving should this delay go into effect,” Huffman’s office said in a statement to Yahoo News.

Despite last week’s formal request to delay the acceptance of transgender recruits, Mattis has yet to make a decision. According to military officials, more time is needed develop policies to help transgender service members who are already enlisted and make changes to facilities on military bases.

Service members already enlisted in the military have been allowed to be openly transgender since June 2016. When former Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban on openly transgender people in the military, he also imposed a one-year implementation period before openly transgender people could be recruited. That period ends Saturday, pending Mattis’ decision.

Should Mattis move forward with the planned recruitment schedule, people who already identify as transgender will be able to enlist as long as they have been stable in their identified gender (meaning a doctor has deemed their transition successful) for 18 months and meet all other requirements for enlistment.

Stephen Peters, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign and a military veteran, said that there is no cause for the proposed delay.

“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,” Peters said. “The thousands of highly trained and qualified transgender service members openly and proudly serving our nation today have proven that what matters is the ability to accomplish the mission, not their gender identity.”

According to the Associated Press, there are approximately 250 service members who are in the process of getting approved or have already been approved to change their genders in the Pentagon’s personnel system. The letter’s co-signers see this as more reason for the military to begin the recruitment of transgender individuals.

“The findings indicated that the medical cost of transgender service members would be limited,” the letter states, referring to a RAND Corporation study contracted by the Pentagon, “and that far from hindering readiness, ‘commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.’”


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