Navy grants first waiver to transgender ban, allowing sailor to serve as preferred gender

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The U.S. Navy has granted its first waiver to the transgender military ban, allowing a sailor to serve under their preferred gender -- more than a year after the ban went into effect.

"The Navy's decision to approve a waiver to the Trump-Pence transgender military ban is an important victory for this sailor," Modern Military Association of America Legal and Policy Director Peter Perkowski said in a statement. 

MMAA is the nation's largest non-profit organization dedicated to "advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community." In Karnoski v. Trump, along with Lambda Legal, MMAA is challenging the constitutionality of the transgender military ban.

The sailor who received the waiver will have their gender changed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and be allowed to adhere to the standards associated with their preferred gender. But MMAA has said they are wary the approval may have ulterior motives. 

"We suspect the administration may be nefariously planning to misuse (the waiver) to undermine our lawsuit challenging the ban," MMAA said in its statement. "We will be watching closely to see if others are approved and how the Trump-Pence administration may attempt to weaponize the decision by falsely claiming the ban isn't a ban."

The fight over transgender military service began in 2017 with a tweet from President Donald Trump. Legal battles mounted in the following years as the Pentagon clarified its policy for the 9,000 service members it affects.

Court paves way for Pentagon transgender ban

The ban on transgender military personnel went into effect on April 12, 2019. Under the ban, individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria are not able to join the military. Anyone who hopes to join the service must do so under the sex they were assigned at birth. Current service members are unable to transition genders. 

"Over the past year, we've continued to hear from qualified transgender patriots who want to serve their country but can't because of the Trump-Pence transgender military ban," Perkowski added. "As our nation faces unprecedented challenges, the last thing our military should be doing is rejecting qualified individuals who want to serve simply because of their gender identity."

According to a study released by the University of California, Los Angeles in March, the majority of those currently serving in the U.S. military believe that transgender individuals should be allowed to serve. 

More than half of active duty service members against transgender ban, survey says

UCLA, funded by the Department of Defense, surveyed 486 active duty, non-transgender service members from every branch of the military -- 66 percent of them oppose the Trump-Pence transgender military ban.


Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.
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