Trump Reinstates Ban on Trans Military Service, Defying Court Orders

The Trump administration reinstated its ban on open transgender military service on Friday in defiance of a series of court orders.

In a 44-page policy obtained by INTO, the White House reaffirms President Donald Trump’s July 2017 decree that transgender people will “not be allowed to serve in any capacity” in the U.S. armed forces.

The document states that trans individuals who “require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified.”

“[T]he Department concludes that accommodating gender transition could impair unit readiness; undermine unit cohesion, as well as good order and discipline, by blurring the clear lines that demarcate male and female standards and policies where they exist; and lead to disproportionate costs,” it reads.

“Underlying these conclusions is the considerable scientific uncertainty and overall lack of high quality scientific evidence demonstrating the extent to which transition-related treatments, such as cross-sex hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgeryinterventions which are unique in psychiatry and medicineremedy the multi-faceted mental health problems associated with gender dysphoria,” the order continues.

The revised policy also claims that individuals with a history of gender dysphoria will be considered ineligible for combat except under circumstances. Those persons must “demonstrate 36 consecutive months of stability” and must be “willing and able to adhere to all standards associated with their biological sex.”

The same is true for service members who enlisted prior to a policy announced by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2016, which paved the way for trans people to serve openly for the first time. These individuals will be able to remain in active so long as they present as the gender they were assigned at birth and do not undergo hormone therapy or recieve gender-affirming surgeries.

The only way a trans individual can serve in their lived gender identity is if they received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a medical provider a) after the 2016 policy was announced but b) before it was lifted by President Trump a series of tweets.

These individuals, the order states, “may continue to receive all medically necessary care.”

Although the policy attempts to tiptoe around any criticism that it amounts to a ban on trans military service by stating that transgender people are free to serve under these stringent restrictions, nearly every LGBTQ advocacy group condemned the plan just minutes after it was released.

“The Trump-Pence administration’s continued insistence on targeting our military families for discrimination is appalling, reckless, and unpatriotic,” says Ashley Broadway-Mack, President of the American Military Partner Association, in a statement. “Donald Trump and Mike Pence are literally wreaking havoc on the lives of our military families.”

“Military experts thoroughly studied this issue and found transgender service members should be able to serve openly with dignity and honor and receive the full support they need and deserve,” Broadway-Mack adds. “This unconscionable attack on our military families cannot standwe refuse to allow it.”

“This plan has no basis in science, medicine, facts, or military readinessonly weak, after-the-fact justifications for President Trump’s irresponsible tweets,” says National Center for Trans Equality President Mara Keisling. “And it aims to force out trained, capable service members and prevent the military from obtaining the most qualified personnel.”

“A fraction of current service members who have already transitioned may be ‘grandfathered’ in and not dischargedbut after this announcement, they will serve under a cloud of hostility,” she claimed.

“President Trump’s unwavering attack on transgender people at the federal level is shameful,” concludes Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “In addition to weakening our military and prohibiting brave patriots from enlisting, a categorical ban on transgender Americans in the military could serve as justification for discrimination in any number of additional areas of life.”

The president’s previous trans military ban, which was signed into policy in August 2017, was overturned in a series of federal court verdicts. At least four courts have ruled against the ban.

In regards to the White House’s assertion that allowing transgender troops to serve would result in “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly says, “On the record before the court, there is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effects on the military at all.”

A 2016 RAND corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon found that open trans military service would result in “relatively low” medical costs and have a “minimal” impact on unit cohesion and troop readiness.

At least two transgender troops have enlisted since the president’s ban was overturned on Jan. 1.

Here are more LGBTQ groups that have decried the updated policy:

AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION (ACLU)

“What the White House has released tonight is transphobia masquerading as policy,” claims Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, in a statement. “This policy is not based on an evaluation of new evidence. It is reverse-engineered for the sole purpose of carrying out President Trump’s reckless and unconstitutional ban, undermining the ability of transgender service members to serve openly and military readiness as a whole.”

“The policy effectively coerces transgender people who wish to serve into choosing between their humanity and their country, and makes it clear that transgender service members are not welcome,” he continues. “Transgender people in our military deserve more from their government than a myth-driven proclamation about their unfitness for full civic inclusion.

EQUALITY CALIFORNIA

“At a time when our nation faces serious threats around the world, it’s baffling that President Trump remains focused on undermining our military by ripping thousands of distinguished service members from their posts,” says Equality CaliforniaExecutive Director Rick Zbur in a press release.”No matter what the White House calls it, this is the same unpatriotic and discriminatory ban that four federal courts have stopped from moving forward.

“All enlistees and service members should be subject to the same standards, and those who meet the standards should be allowed to serve openly and authentically,” he continues.”Period.”

GLAAD

“President Trump has made a continuous effort to attack LGBTQ people and erase us from the fabric of our country, and the proposed transgender military ban is perhaps his cruelest and most egregious campaign,” says Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a statement. “The majority of Americans support transgender military inclusion, which has been proceeding seamlessly since it was first implemented, so we are left to assume that the Trump Administration’s intention here is solely to stoke the fires of bias and hatred in this nation.”

HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN (HRC)

“There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops,” says Human Rights CampaignPresident Chad Griffin, in a press release. “Donald Trump and Mike Pence are pushing their extreme anti-transgender prejudices onto the military over the overwhelming objections of bipartisan officials, national security leaders and the American public.

“We will never stop fighting this discriminatory policy until every current and future transgender service member is treated equally and respected fully for their bravery,” he continues.

“The Trump-Pence Administration continues to double down on its cruel and unconstitutional ban on transgender troops,” adds HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “From the first impulsive tweet, this policy has clearly been driven by an extreme anti-LGBTQ agenda rather than what is in the best interests of our troops and national security. Transgender people are enlisting and serving with distinction right now, and there is no legitimate reason to change that.”

“Moreover, releasing this news under cover of darkness late on a Friday night means thousands of transgender troops will wake up tomorrow with their lives turned upside down,” she claims.”This couldn’t be more cowardly or wrong.”

LAMBDA LEGAL

“The ‘plan’ unveiled today is nothing more than a transparent ruse cobbled together with spittle and duct tape designed solely to try to mask discrimination,” claims Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn in a statement. “A plan to implement an unconstitutional decree is an unconstitutional plan.”

“In 2016, after careful and deliberate study, the Pentagon determined that the prohibition on open service by transgender people lacked any foundation and lifted the ban,” Renn continues.”Since then, transgender troops had been serving openly and successfullyuntil President Trump unleashed his incendiary barrage of uninformed tweets.”

“We, along with our sibling organizations, moved quickly to block implementation of the plan, and every single federal court to look at this policy… has found that it reeks of undisguised and unlawful discrimination against qualified transgender people willing and able to serve our country, and blocked its implementation,” he concludes.”That block remains in effect, notwithstanding the release of the plan today.”

NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS (NCLR)

“This is exactly the discriminatory, categorical ban that four federal courts have already barred from going forward,” says Shannon Minter, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) legal director, in a press release. “This is just the sort of baseless attack on dedicated service members we have come to expect from this administration, and we will continue to fight this shameful ban vigorously in federal court.”

OUTSERVE-SLDN

“This policy is a thinly-veiled and feeble attempt by the Trump-Pence administration to justify the unnecessary discrimination of qualified patriots in order to advance their own personal agendas and in defiance of the administration’s top military leadership,”claims Matt Thorn, President & CEO ofOutServe-SLDN, in a statement.”This plan is riddled with blatant animus, bigotry, and ignorance but conveniently void of any foundational bases or facts.”

“We are calling this what it isan attempt to legitimize an unwarranted and unnecessary attack that targets individuals who have volunteered their lives in support of this country,” he adds.”A vast majority of this country affirms thattransgenderindividuals should be allowed toserve.”

SPARTA

“Astransgenderservice members, we are and have always been Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen first,”says Blake Dremann, President of SPARTA, in a press release.”Weserveour country honorably, in good faith. Transgenderservice members are currently deployed to various locations around the world in defense of our nation. They have been doing their jobs despite those who are attempting to remove them. Proving they are fully capable of doing the job they are called to do, the averagetransgenderservice member has eight years of service and served two or more deployments.

“There is no justification for a ban, and there is no justification for leaving our country without service members who are capable and performing their duties to the standards set forth by our commanders,” he continues.

Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.

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