President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. Armed Forces to “return to the longstanding policy” of precluding transgender individuals from military service.
In an Aug. 25 memorandum to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, who oversees the Coast Guard, Trump directed the military to bar transgender individuals from entering the service. By March 23, 2018, the Armed Forces also must “halt all use” of government funds to pay for gender reassignment surgery for military personnel, Trump stated, “except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.”
Additionally, Trump ordered Defense Secretary James Mattis to submit by Feb. 21 a plan “to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military.” That plan will be implemented by March 23.
Estimates of the total number of transgender troops in the U.S. military range from just over 1,000 to more than 10,000. In all, there are more than 2 million reserve and active duty troops.
Trump’s directives were anticipated Aug. 23 in a Wall Street Journal report and were the subject of a Baptist Press report, in which Southern Baptists with military and Defense Department experience underscored the biblical concept of gender and urged prayer for leaders of the Armed Forces.
In his memo, Trump criticized the Obama administration for its 2016 decision to lift a previous ban on transgender service members.
“In my judgment,” Trump wrote, “the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects.”
A ban on transgender troops will remain in place, Trump stated, “until such time as sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have” negative effects on the military.
The president left open the possibility of permitting transgender military service in the future if the Secretary of Defense “provides a recommendation … that I find convincing.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)