WASHINGTON — The White House and Pentagon on Friday unveiled a new policy on transgender troops that will severely restrict their place in the military.
Pentagon officials had a deadline of Friday to put in place the new policy after months of consideration and court challenges. President Trump followed through late Friday and issued orders to ban transgender troops in all but extremely limited cases.
In August, Trump sent Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a memo ordering him to propose changes to the Obama-era policy that allows transgender troops to serve openly and receive medical treatment, including sexual reassignment surgery.
But Trump rescinded that directive Friday.
"I hereby revoke my memorandum of Aug. 25, 2017," Trump wrote in a memorandum. "The Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security . . . may exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals."
Mattis had given the White House his recommendation on transgender service in February. Without a new policy, the Pentagon would have reverted to its pre-2016 practice that effectively banned transgender troops from service on medical grounds.
Mattis has emphasized the readiness of troops to deploy and fight. In February, the Pentagon established a policy that dismisses troops if they cannot deploy for a period of one year. That principle could affect transgender troops who require medical care that could not be provided in a war zone.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Trump a coward.
"This latest memorandum is the same cowardly, disgusting ban the president announced last summer," Pelosi said. "No one with the strength and bravery to serve in the U.S. military should be turned away because of who they are. The president's hateful ban is purpose-built to humiliate our brave transgender members of the military who serve with honor and dignity."
The Department of Justice said the decision was made "after comprehensive study and analysis."
"The Secretary of Defense concluded that new policies should be adopted regarding individuals with gender dysphoria that are consistent with military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints, and applicable law," the DOJ wrote. "The Department of Justice will continue to defend the Department of Defense's lawful authority to create and implement personnel policies they have determined are necessary to best defend our nation."
Xavier Becerra, the attorney general for California, said his state will fight the ban.
"California will take every measure available to prevent (Trump's) discriminatory action that harms or marginalizes transgender service members — or any other transgender Americans who wish to courageously defend our nation," Becerra tweeted.
In July, Trump overturned the policy on transgender troops. He tweeted that transgender troops were no longer welcome in the military, and that the military would no longer pay for their surgeries.
Pentagon leaders reassured transgender troops that they would not be kicked out and that there medical care would not be interrupted until a new policy was created. Federal courts have ruled that transgender men and women must be allowed to volunteer for service. Dozens of transgender recruits have signed up since becoming eligible Jan. 1.
There are believed to be as many as several thousand transgender troops among the active-duty force of more than one million troops, according to a RAND Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon in 2016. Their ability to deploy and cost of medical treatment would have a minimal impact on military readiness, according to the report.