The Trump administration is asking a federal judge to delay a requirement to begin accepting transgender recruits to the military on Jan. 1.
“Specifically, Defendants request that the Court stay the portion of its preliminary injunction requiring Defendants to begin accessing transgender individuals into the military on January 1, 2018, pending a decision by the D.C. Circuit on Defendants’ appeal,” the government wrote in a motion filed late Wednesday.
The administration and the plaintiffs have asked for a decision by noon Monday.
In October, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blocked President Trump’s ban on transgender troops while a lawsuit against it works its way through court.
Last month, after a motion by the Trump administration, Kollar-Kotelly issued a follow-up ruling clarifying the earlier one that said the military must accept transgender recruits by Jan. 1, as it had planned to do prior to Trump’s ban.
In July Trump tweeted that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity.
He made good on the tweets in August, signing a presidential memo that prohibits the military from enlisting transgender people and from using funds to pay for gender transition-related surgery. The memo also gave Defense Secretary James Mattis six months to determine what to do with currently serving transgender troops.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders sued in August on behalf of six unnamed service members and two recruits.
After Kollar-Kotelly’s rulings, the Pentagon said it was preparing to comply and accept transgender recruits by Jan. 1 even as the administration explores its legal options.
“While reviewing legal options with the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense is taking steps to be prepared to initiate accessions of transgender applicants for military service on January 1, 2018, per recent court orders,” Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. Dave Eastburn said in a statement to several news outlets this week.
But in Wednesday’s motion, the administration argued that it will be “seriously and irreparably harmed if forced” to implement the policy by Jan. 1.
“Given the complex and multidisciplinary nature of the medical standards that need to be issued and the tens of thousands of geographically dispersed individuals that need to be trained, the military will not be adequately prepared to begin processing transgender applicants for military service by January 1, 2018, and requiring the military to do so may negatively impact military readiness,” the motion said.
The motion also argued that the plaintiffs will not be negatively affected by a delay because the two recruits in the suit will not be eligible to join the military until May 2020 and spring 2021.
In a sworn statement included in the motion, Lernes Hebert, acting deputy assistant secretary of Defense for military personnel policy, added that accepting transgender recruits by the new year would “impose extraordinary burdens” on the Pentagon by needing to prepare 20,367 recruiters, 2,785 employees across 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations, 32 service medical waiver authorities and personnel at nine boot camps.
“Beyond the sheer number of components and personnel involved, the implementation of accessions criteria is itself a complex undertaking,” he wrote.
“In the case of the transgender accession standards, the standards themselves are complex, interdisciplinary standards necessitating evaluation across several systems of the body, to include behavioral and mental health (e.g. diagnosis of gender dysphoria or related comorbidities), surgical procedures (particularly thoracic and genital), and endocrinology (for the purposes of cross-sex hormone therapy). No other accession standard has been implemented that presents such a multifaceted review of an applicant’s medical history.”
Brad Carson, a former Pentagon official who worked on the Obama administration’s transgender military policy, refuted the Trump administration’s arguments.
“The Pentagon had already done most of the preparation and training in anticipation of the lifting of the accession ban before the presidential transition, so to claim that the military is not ready to lift the ban now seems a stretch,” he said in a statement released by the Palm Center.