Transgender people already in the US military will be allowed to serve until Donald Trump’s ban is reviewed, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said.
Mattis said that he would create a panel of experts to examine the implications of the US President’s order, which will prohibit transgender people from serving in the US forces.
“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 a statement.
“In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.”
Despite the Pentagon lifting a ban last year against transgender people serving in the military, Trump announced on Twitter earlier this month that they will no longer be able to serve in “any capacity”.
Trump, who dodged the draft five times during the Vietnam War, announced that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail”.
It is estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty in the US.
Trump signed a memorandum on Friday instructing the US military not to accept transgender men and women as recruits.
The memo also halted the use of government funds for sex-reassignment surgeries for active personnel unless the process is already under way.
Mattis has been called to submit a plan to Trump by February 21 on how to implement the changes.
Trump’s ban sparked international outrage, with many veterans slamming the policy change as “shameful and wrong”.
During Trump’s election campaign he claimed he was the better candidate for lesbian, gay, transgender Americans than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Many commended the “courage” transgender people exhibit every day and Chelsea Manning lambasted the announcement as “cowardice”.