February 27, 2018 at 11:17 am EST | by Chris Johnson
In first, U.S. military has accepted openly transgender recruit
Pentagon, military, gay news, Washington Blade

The Pentagon has accepted a openly transgender recruit.
(Public domain photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond).

In a first, an openly transgender person has signed a contract to join the U.S. military — a development that could occur thanks to federal court rulings against President Trump’s transgender military ban.

Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesperson, confirmed to the Washington Blade on Tuesday an openly transgender person has signed a contract to join the armed forces, which is part of the process for enlistment.

“DOD confirms that as of Feb. 23, 2018, there is one transgender individual under contract for service in the U.S. military,” Eastburn said.

Eastburn said the person hasn’t yet started basic training, but wouldn’t provide any additional details “as a matter of privacy and the individual’s wishes.”

The date identified by the Pentagon is the same date Defense Secretary James Mattis delivered his recommendation to President Trump on transgender service in accordance with Trump’s directive seeking to ban transgender people from the armed forces. Administration officials are staying mum on the nature of Mattis’ recommendation, but major media outlets have reported the advice was to allow transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.

In his August directive, Trump sought to reinstate a prohibition on transgender military service lifted in the Obama years, keep in place the ban on transgender recruitment and ban U.S. military payments for gender reassignment surgery. But federal courts blocked this policy from going into effect as a result of litigation filed by LGBT legal groups.

The court rulings required the U.S. military to begin admitting transgender people in the armed forces on Jan. 1 in accordance with an earlier Mattis memo, which was issued before Trump’s directive and set that as the target date. Transgender people have been able to enlist in the armed forces since that time.

According to the Washington Times, Pentagon spokesperson Army Col. Rob Manning on Monday told reporters Mattis’ recommendation on whether to allow transgender troops to serve remains under review at the White House.

Col. Manning reportedly declined to comment on any details about the recommendation or conversations between Mattis and other officials on the issue. It remains to be seen what action Trump will take in the aftermath of the recommendation.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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