A federal judge has ruled that transgender people can enlist in the military starting on 1st January 2018, CNN reports. The Pentagon confirmed that it will move forward with transgender applicants on that date.
"The court is not persuaded that defendants will be irreparably injured by allowing the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on 1st January 2018," Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her ruling, which was obtained by the Times.
The ruling is another blow to President Donald Trump's agenda. He announced through a series of tweets in July that transgender people wouldn't be allowed to serve in the military at all. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," Trump posted on 26th July.
As the nonpartisan fact-checking site PolitiFact confirmed in July, the military currently spends more money on erectile dysfunction medications than it does on healthcare and procedures for transgender people.
Trump didn't elaborate on what he meant by transgender people being a "disruption" in the military, but retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and current Senator Tammy Duckworth issued a powerful statement in August. Duckworth wrote that she didn't care whether the people saving her life "were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind." (Duckworth lost both her legs when her helicopter was shot down by a grenade in 2004.)
According to guidelines sent to military recruiters, transgender applicants will be referred to by their "preferred gender name and pronoun," and room and bathroom assignments will be determined by an applicant's gender identity.
Still, transgender applicants will face challenges that their cisgender counterparts don't. According to The Associated Press, any recruit who is on hormone therapy must be 18 months into the process in order to be allowed into the military. However, the outlet notes that this mirrors certain limitations suggested by the Obama administration last year.
With an estimated 15,500 transgender people currently serving in the United States Armed Forces, it's actually the largest employer of trans people. Today's ruling protects the transgender community's ability to put their lives on the line for this country.