Transgender troops allowed to re-enlist in US military
The Pentagon has confirmed that transgender troops currently serving in the military are able to re-enlist in the next several months as a ban on their service is under review.
In a memo to military leaders on Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the Pentagon would convene a high-level panel to determine how to carry out the ban ordered by US President Donald Trump on transgender individuals in the military.
Transgender service members are allowed to continue to serve and have access to medical care, Mattis said.
"Transgender service members whose term of service expires while the interim guidance is in effect may at the service members' request re-enlist under existing procedures," said Pentagon spokesman Rob Manning Friday.
Trump signed a memo late August that effectively bans transgender individuals from joining armed forces after he first disclosed his intention on Twitter in July.
The memo requires Mattis to determine in the coming months how to handle those already enlisted. The defense chief later announced to create a panel to provide advice and recommendations on implementing Trump's directive.
Trump's transgender ban was praised by social conservatives but also drew roundly criticism. Senator John McCain of Arizona said on Friday that he would back legislation designed to block the president's transgender military ban.
"Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve, including those who are transgender," McCain said in a statement.
The legislation was also sponsored by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
Trump tweeted in July that the government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military.
The military "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," he said then.
A Pentagon-commissioned study in 2016 showed that there are an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender service members in the military.
It concluded that allowing them to serve openly would have a minimal impact on the readiness and health care costs of the 1.3-million-member US military force.