Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday night that transgender soldiers will remain in the military pending a study.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday prohibiting trans recruits from enlisting in the military and the Pentagon from using resources to fund sex-reassignment surgeries for military personnel. Trump gave Mattis authority to decide the matter of openly transgender individuals already serving.
The ban would take effect next year, but Mattis announced he will form a panel to examine how to put the new order into effect. The current policy will stay in place in the meantime.
"Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction," Mattis said in the statement. "In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place."
More than 140 House Democrats have sent a letter to President Donald Trump calling on him to reconsider his ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.
The lawmakers argued there is no place for discrimination in the military or anywhere else in society. In the letter released Tuesday, they said enforcing the ban could mean discharging active duty soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Air Force members who are serving honorably.
According to one estimate, there are about 15,500 transgender people in the military, 8,800 of whom are active duty service members.
President Trump first announced the proposed ban in a series of tweets, claiming transgender people in the military cause "tremendous medical costs and disruption." However, removing current trans soldiers could cost the military as much as $960 million, 100 times more than providing transition-related healthcare to service members.
Now, trans soldiers are forced to wait for Mattis' panel to issue a more concrete order.