DOJ lodges appeal as military prepares to accept transgender applicants

The Defense Department is taking steps to receive transgender recruits into the ranks as soon as January 1, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

“The Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported by a panel of experts will propose consideration recommendations supported by appropriate evidence and information for the accession of transgender persons into the military,” US Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a written statement.

Late Wednesday, the US Department of Justice asked a federal judge to put on hold her order requiring the military to begin allowing transgender recruits on January 1, while the DOJ appeals her decision to a higher court.

So far, two federal judges have blocked enforcement of key provisions of President Donald Trump’s prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the military, which was announced in August.

Judge Marvin Garbis in Maryland wrote in a 53-page ruling last month that currently serving transgender service members were “already suffering harmful consequences” and prohibited the administration “from blocking those challenging the ban from completing their medically necessary surgeries.”

The other federal judge had blocked portions of Trump’s directive in October.

Wednesday’s filing included a sworn statement from Lernes J. Herbert, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense, military personnel policy, in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

He said that ordering that the policy go into effect on January 1 “will impose extraordinary burdens on the Department.”

He argued in part that if the department were compelled to execute transgender accessions, “applicants may not receive the appropriate medical and administrative accession screening necessary for someone with a complex medical condition. As a result, an applicant may be accessed for military service who is not physically or psychologically equipped to engage in combat/operational service.

In his statement Wednesday, Eastburn said the panel, which would operate per the recent court rulings, will issue findings based on “multiple considerations including military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints, and applicable law.”

Shortly after Trump’s directive in August, Defense Secretary James Mattis said he would work with a panel of experts to recommend how the military should put the administration’s transgender guidance into effect.

Once that panel concludes, Mattis will provide his advice to Trump on how to implement his policy direction. That new policy is expected to be announced by March.