By Karen Ocamb | Washington Blade
Courtesy of National LGBT Media Association

White House guidance on the transgender military service ban President Trump ordered via tweet July 26 was expected to be headed to the Pentagon, as soon as Thursday afternoon, Aug. 24, or possibly Friday morning, Aug. 25, a senior White House source told the Los Angeles Blade.

OutServe-SLDN announced, in an angry press release distributed moments after the news became public, that the organization intends to file a lawsuit with Lambda Legal as soon as they see and scrutinize the memo sent to Defense Sec. Mattis.

The guidance has been boiled down to a 2½-page memo directing Mattis to come up with a policy in six months, stop spending money on transgender-related medical treatment for active duty trans servicemembers and gauge fitness for service based on deployability whether the trans individual can ably serve in a war zone and engage in military exercises or function a ship for months, officials told the Wall Street Journal.

“DoD will provide an update upon receipt of formal guidance,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick told The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson. “The department continues to focus on our mission of defending our nation and on-going operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect.”

That guidance was also watered down from the complete ban Trump ordered to one that would allow active duty trans service members to continue serving after even Republicans opposed Trump’s tweeted policy change.

The weakened policy requires that recruitment and the accessions policy be halted (they are now), enlistment contracts not be renewed, promotions result in discharges, and transgender-specific healthcare be prohibited.

At an Aug. 14 news conference, Mattis indicated support for trans service members, noting the United States Armed Forces is “a widely diverse force. We look at ‘E Pluribus Unum’ on our coins. Out of many, one. They were simply emphasizing on the battlefield we are one team and that’s the way we stay.”

It has now been widely reported that Mattis quietly intervened to scotch efforts by anti-LGBT Reps. Duncan Hunter and Vicky Hartzler to get a version of the trans ban passed through Congress.

Nor did he object when Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the current policy of open service would remain in effect until it is formally replaced or when Navy Secretary Spencer said “any patriot” should be allowed to serve, echoing other commanders supporting their trans service members.

However, Mattis also noted that the military chain of command requires him to follow orders given by the civilian commander-in-chief.

“You all elected — the American people elected the commander-in-chief. I — they didn’t elect me. So the commander-in-chief in our country and our system of government is elected by the people. He has that authority and responsibility. So that was fully within his responsibility,” Mattis said.

Mattis said he expected the guidance “very soon,” after which “we will study it and come up with what the policy should be.”

It is unclear how long it will take to study the guidance and come up with a policy, considering that the Pentagon is already investigating four serious incidents with the Navy involving numerous deaths—raising questions about military readiness in the forward Asian theatre as North Korea continues saber-rattling.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 25, 2017.