The Pentagon announced Friday night that it will delay allowing openly transgender troops to join the military until Jan. 1, 2018.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved the recommendation from the services that lifting the ban be delayed to allow them time to review the impact on “the readiness and lethality of our forces,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.
The six-month delay will only impact new transgender recruits, not the estimated 15,500 already serving. It follows reports last week that the service leaders requested the delay.
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the decision to allow transgender troops to serve openly on June 30, 2016, with an implementation deadline of July 1, 2017.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., said allowing transgender troops to serve openly is “ill-conceived and contrary to our goals of increasing troop readiness.”
“This delay is indicative of a policy that was rushed and never clearly thought out and I am pleased that Secretary Mattis has decided to delay the accession policy,” she said in a statement.
Hartzler introduced and then withdrew an amendment to the House’s defense authorization bill in committee this week that would repeal the policy that allows transgender troops to serve openly. While she withdrew the amendment, she said she may bring it up again during debate in the full House in July.
The move faced immediate blowback from gay-rights advocates. The American Military Partners Association called it “disappointing” that qualified transgender people can’t be open about their identity when enlisting or commissioning.
“It has been unequivocally proven that allowing qualified transgender people to serve openly strengthens our military and creates a more inclusive and diverse force. The issue has been thoroughly studied and moving forward with this new recruitment policy is imperative in order for the military to be able to recruit the best talent our nation has to offer,” the association’s president Ashley Broadway-Mack said in a statement.
OutServe-Service Members Legal Defense Network also issued a statement, saying that they still expect the ban on transgender service to be lifted at the end of the six-month delay.
“We reiterate that the services are prepared for transgender individuals and assert that delays beyond January 2018 will have a negative impact on military readiness—that we cannot tolerate,” the group said in a statement.