The heads of U.S. military branches are trying to delay a July 1 deadline for allowing transgender people to join the military, citing a need to “study the issue.”
Last year, an order by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ending the military’s ban on transgender people serving openly gave the Pentagon until July to allow enlistment as long as aspiring service members had been stable in their identified genders for 18 months. If military bosses have their way, that deadline would be extended by at least six months, the Associated Press reported.
On Friday, military leaders said they had rejected a request by the Army and the Air Force to extend the delay by up to two years. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will make the final decision.
According to the AP, the delay “would give the four military services time to gauge if currently serving transgender troops are facing problems and what necessary changes the military bases might have to make.”
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told a Senate committee that there are issues “some of the service chiefs believe need to be resolved before we move forward.”
Military leaders also want to extend the requirement that gender identities be “stable” from 18 to 24 months.
While the military’s reasoning for the delays included medical issues, readiness, possible discrimination, and discipline, others say top brass should stick to Carter’s original deadline.
“Each day that passes without implementing the final piece of this important policy harms our military readiness and restricts the Armed Forces’ ability to recruit the best and the brightest,” Human Rights Campaign spokesman and Marine veteran Stephen Peters told the AP.
While an accurate number of transgender people currently serving in the military is unknown, that number is believed to be several thousand. A RAND study on the issue determined that foreign military experiences showed “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”