US military to accept transgender recruits from Jan 1

Washington, Dec 30 (IANS) The Pentagon has said it will begin accepting transgender military recruits on Monday, after President Donald Trump’s administration decided not to appeal a court order blocking his ban.

The Department of Justice announced on Friday it would delay challenging the stay on President Trump’s transgender ban before the Supreme Court, the Hill magazine reported.

“The Department of Defence has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks. So rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DOD’s study and will continue to defend the President’s and Secretary of Defence’s lawful authority in district court in the meantime,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Trump announced the ban in July on Twitter and followed up with a memo in August directing the Pentagon to stop accepting transgender recruits and to put in policies to deal with those already serving.

Four lawsuits were filed by groups and individuals opposing the ban. Lower court judges placed a halt on the ban while those cases worked their way through the judicial system.

The administration appealed those stays, but federal appeals courts denied their request to delay accepting transgender recruits on January 1, 2018.

The Trump administration had weighed asking the Supreme Court to intervene before dropping those plans on Friday.

Lawyers representing currently-serving transgender service members and aspiring recruits said they had expected the administration to appeal the rulings to the Supreme Court, but were hoping that would not happen.

Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said: “As mandated by court order, the Department of Defence is prepared to begin accessing transgender applicants for military service January 1. All applicants must meet all accession standards.”

Jennifer Levi, a lawyer with gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy group GLAD, called the decision not to appeal “great news”.

The Obama administration had set a July 1, 2017, deadline to begin allowing transgender recruits to enlist.

Trump’s Defence Secretary James Mattis changed the deadline to January 1 before Trump announced his ban.