In a revised directive, US President Donald Trump has said transgender troops are a considerable risk to military effectiveness. His latest attempt to ban trans military personnel has been labeled "despicable."
US President Donald Trump signed a new memorandum on Friday that bans most transgender people from serving in the US military.
The White House said transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, defined as "those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery," would be disqualified from military service "except under certain limited circumstances."
Transgender troops "present considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality," the latest memorandum said.
Not a total ban
The revised order makes good on a promise Trump made last summer to roll back an Obama-era policy of accepting transgender military personnel. But the directive pulls back from a blanket ban following months of legal wrangling.
Trump's initial memo had to be modified after federal courts ruled against the ban in four separate cases, saying it violated the right to equal protection under the US Constitution.
The latest plan gives the secretaries of defense and homeland security greater discretion over whether a transgender person can serve.
Some 8,980 service members reportedly identify as transgender, but only 937 active duty personnel were diagnosed with gender dysphoria since the end of June 2016, according to White House figures. There are over 1,300,000 active duty personnel of the US military, according to July 2017 data from the Department of Defense.
It remains to be seen whether the ban will be fully implemented. The Pentagon said on Friday it would continue to comply with current federal law.
"(The Pentagon) will continue to assess and retain transgender service members," Defense Department spokesman Major David Eastburn insisted.
The US military responded to Trump's original order by allowing those serving to stay in the military and began allowing transgender individuals to enlist beginning on January 1.
Under the latest guidelines, the Pentagon can disqualify potential recruits unless a medical provider certifies that they have been clinically stable in their preferred sex for 18 months, and are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas.
Rights groups annoyed
Trump's latest move was immediately rounded upon by LGBTI rights groups.
"There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops," Chad Griffin, president of the advocacy group The Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the move, saying, "This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen."
mm/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)