Nicolas Talbott spent the day after New Year’s doing what he’d said he would do if the courts allowed: taking the next steps to legally enlist in the military as a transgender service member.
“I spoke with my recruiter today [Jan. 2] and am completing paperwork needed to enlist. I’ve been working with this particular recruiter for the past year, and we are really excited to move forward with this process,” said Talbott, 24. “This is a historic day for the military and for transgender Americans.”
The Trump administration dropped its legal fight seeking to delay the Jan. 1 deadline for the Pentagon to accept transgender forces late Friday, Dec. 29.
The administration had been fighting in multiple lawsuits at the circuit court level to delay a previously established Jan. 1 deadline to allow transgender forces to enlist. In December it lost in three of the cases, losses that would have required administration lawyers to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court before Monday in order to have any chance of staying the decision.
In a statement released Friday, the Justice Department said it was going to wait for a DoD study directed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on whether there would be any adverse affects to readiness caused by transgender troops enlisting and serving. Transgender forces already openly serve in the U.S. military.
“Rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DoD’s study and will continue to defend the president’s and secretary of defense’s lawful authority in district court in the meantime,” the Justice Department said.
Hours before the Justice Department announced its decision, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters that DoD would “obey whatever the law says,” without indicating one way or another what he personally thought about the decision. Mattis said he does not make a habit of singling out one or another group of service members for comment.
There is still a case at the Circuit Court level, to be heard in January, on whether currently serving transgender troops may remain in the military.
Separately, Mattis’ recommendations on how or whether currently serving transgender forces remain in the military are due to the White House in February, with President Donald Trump due to issue his guidelines in March.
Transgender advocacy groups called the Jan. 1 victory historic.
“This marks the first time in United States history that qualified transgender Americans will be authorized to openly enlist in the nation’s Armed Forces,” attorneys for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders said in a statement Saturday. “This is a major victory in the litigation and great news for transgender troops, transgender military academy and ROTC students, and transgender people who have been waiting to enlist.”