Transgender people will be allowed to sign up for the US military for the first time on January 1 after Donald Trump‘s ban was blocked in the courts.
The US president announced in July that he planned to block the Obama-era policy of accepting transgender people into the military.
But the government has accepted defeat after federal appeals courts in Washington and Virginia ruled against the president, who will not challenge them.
In a statement, Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said: ‘As mandated by court order, the Department of Defense is prepared to begin accessing transgender applicants for military service Jan. 1. All applicants must meet all accession standards.’
Activists and lawyers for LGBT groups are celebrating the announcement, with some expressing surprise that Trump did not launch an appeal.
Jennifer Levi, a lawyer for gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy group GLAD, said it was ‘great news’, adding: ‘I’m hoping it means the government has come to see that there is no way to justify a ban and that it’s not good for the military or our country.’
An official with the Justice Department, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration will not challenge the courts.
They said: ‘The Department of Defense has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks.
‘So rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DoD’s study and will continue to defend the president’s lawful authority in District Court in the meantime.’
Announcing his ban, Trump said the military ‘cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail’.
In September, the Pentagon created a panel made up of senior officials studying how to implement Trump’s plan forbidding transgender soldiers from serving.
But four federal judges ruled against the ban, saying it would likely violate the constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon issued a memo to recruiters outlining how transgender applicants should be processed, including how their sex would be identified and which underwear they would be given.
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