Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Didn't Actually Halt Trump's Transgender Ban

Late last night, news broke that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that transgender service members would be able to continue serving in the military, pending the results of a study.

From NPR:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is leaving an Obama-era policy on transgender military service members largely intact, saying he needs input from an expert panel to determine the best way to implement President Trump's ban that would keep transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.

Trump barred transgender would-be recruits from signing up, but he gave Mattis discretion to decide the status of transgender people who are already serving.

Mattis says he'll convene the panel from the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, with the goal of promoting "military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion" — while also following legal and budgetary constraints.

"In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place," Mattis said in a statement Tuesday night. "I expect to issue interim guidance to the force concerning the president's direction, including any necessary interim adjustments to procedures, to ensure the continued combat readiness of the force until our final policy on this subject is issued."

Just days earlier, Donald Trump signed a memo instructing the Defense Department to stop accepting transgender individuals who wish to enroll in the military.

But a new piece from Salon points out that reports that suggested the Defense Secretary did something to freeze Trump's transgender ban, actually misrepresent the truth.

In fact, writer Mark Joseph Stern states that Mattis is doing nothing more, and nothing less than following his boss's orders.

Mattis did not “freeze” the trans ban, and he is not “buy[ing] time” in some potentially insubordinate effort to buck Trump. In reality, the secretary is doing exactly what Trump directed him to do in a recent memo.

Stern continues:

In his Tuesday announcement, Mattis declared that he will do precisely what the memo requires of him. He is not suspending the ban or disobeying Trump, but simply following orders. Moreover, as Nathaniel Frank explained in Slate, the memo does not give Mattis real discretion in executing the ban. He can, theoretically, provide a recommendation that Trump scrap it. But barring a reversal by the president, Mattis lacks any real ability to protect trans troops.

The strategy laid out in Friday’s memo is designed to lend legitimacy to an arbitrary and capricious policy that is motivated solely by politics. In fact, the Pentagon already commissioned a study which concluded that open transgender service will have no negative effects on the military while costing very little. Mattis’ new “study,” by contrast, will almost certainly provide some pseudo-factual cover for the trans ban.