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Military leaders seek to delay transgender enlistment policy

Leaders in four military branches have requested a six-month delay before allowing Americans who already identify as transgender to enlist in the armed forces. The request will go to Defense Secretary James Mattis for a final decision. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Military leaders have reportedly requested a six-month delay before instituting a new policy allowing transgender people to enlist in the armed services.

Following meetings last week, the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines agreed to request a six-month delay to the previously established July 1 deadline to develop new policies on accepting transgender applicants who have been in their transitioned identity for at least 18 months, The Associated Press reported.

The original date was set by Ash Carter, who served as defense secretary under former President Barack Obama. Current Defense Secretary James Mattis will have to make the final decision on whether or not to grant the delay.

Since October, transgender troops already in the military have been able to receive medical care and begin formally transitioning their gender identities in the Pentagon’s personnel database.

According to the AP report, Air Force and Army officials wanted a two-year delay before allowing already transgender Americans into the armed forces, but the request was rejected over fears that such a lengthy delay would stir up criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The Navy and Marine Corps sought a one-year delay.

The military leaders argued to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work on Thursday that they need time to study the issue and the impact it has on the readiness of the forces. The officials believe a six-month delay will give them the time they need to evaluate any problems transgender troops are currently facing and what changes might need to be made.

Currently, there are about 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred gender identity or who have received permission from the Pentagon to change their identity in the personnel database.

Work, considering the input he’s received from the four military branches, will now have to make a recommendation to Mattis, CNN reported.

“The deputy secretary has not submitted a recommendation to the secretary yet, so no decision has been made,” chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told CNN. “Different services had different takes. ... There were all kinds of different recommendations.”

In addition to the six-month delay, military chiefs are requesting that transgender Americans seeking to join the armed forces be stable in their new identity for at least two years, as opposed to the 18-month standard established by the Obama administration.

This report comes roughly one month after the Army announced that embattled transgender Pvt. Chelsea Manning will remain on active duty after being released from a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 17. Manning, who was born male, will receive military benefits, including health care.

The 29-year-old soldier, who served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act in 2013 after leaking hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive  government documents to WikiLeaks.

In the final days of his presidency, though, Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, ordering the private be released after serving nearly seven years in prison.

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