Mattis delivers recommendations to White House on transgender individuals

Thomson Reuters

WASHINGTON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has made his recommendations to the White House on transgender individuals serving in the military, the Pentagon said on Friday, after President Donald Trump's call last year for a ban on such service.

Major David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said the recommendations had been made earlier on Friday and the White House would make any policy decisions.

The Pentagon did not give details on the recommendations, but the top U.S. general has said transgender troops should not be removed from the military.

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, last year said that he has urged the Trump administration not to kick transgender service members out of the military.

In September, the Pentagon said it had created a panel of senior officials to study how to implement a directive by Trump to prohibit transgender individuals from serving.

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In a move that appealed to his hard-line conservative supporters, Trump announced in July that he would prohibit transgender people from serving in the military, reversing former President Barack Obama's policy of accepting them. Trump said on Twitter at the time that the military "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

As a presidential candidate, Trump vowed to fight for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. His tweet drew condemnation from rights groups and some lawmakers in both parties as politically motivated discrimination.

Critics of Trump's ban pointed to a Rand Corporation study that estimated annual transgender healthcare accounted for only $2.4 million to $8.4 million of the more than $50 billion in Defense Department healthcare spending.

But it was also praised by conservative activists and some of his fellow Republicans.

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A number of federal judges - in Baltimore, Washington, Seattle and Riverside, California - issued rulings blocking Trump's ban. The judges said the ban would likely violate the right under the U.S. Constitution to equal protection under the law.

Late last year transgender people were allowed for the first time to enlist in the U.S. military, after the Trump administration decided not to appeal rulings that blocked his transgender ban.

Military officials do not know how many transgender people have begun to enlist since Jan. 1, when the Defense Department began accepting openly transgender recruits. But advocates said they believe dozens, if not hundreds, of transgender people will seek to join an estimated 4,000 already serving. (Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Tom Brown and Jonathan Oatis)

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