First, President Trump targeted Mexicans, then Muslims, refugees and undocumented immigrants and kneeling black athletes. The latest group in his sights? Transgender Americans who want to serve their country in the military, but whom Trump has deemed unworthy. If the courts don’t come to their defense, they will be banned from service. We hope the courts make clear that a ban is unconstitutional.
This is Trump’s second attempt in less than a year to impose this ban. His new order says: “Transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service.” The order allows the Pentagon to make exceptions allowing some transgender members to serve, but the damage is done.
It’s an unfair, unjust mandate, but the president is determined to make it a reality.
After a federal judge in Washington, D.C., blocked a similar move in October, Trump directed the Pentagon to find a way to carry out a version of the ban. It did, but it was quickly challenged in court. Justice Department lawyers revealed this latest effort in a Friday-night missive a week ago.
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Needless to say, the attack on transgender soldiers all but ignores a RAND Corporation study that found that allowing transgender people to serve would have “minimal impact” on Pentagon readiness and healthcare costs.
The attack dismisses support from Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee last fall that transgender troops have served with honor.
Trump and his White House don’t care; maybe his most ardent supporters don’t, either.
The number of affected troops is small; an estimated 2,000 to 11,000 identify as transgender, out of a total military force of 1.3 million active-duty members.
But it’s not the numbers; what’s offensive is the government-sanctioned discrimination that the president is unleashing.
This order will expel from the armed forces people who want to serve their country; who have made the military a career. Americans who will be considered second-class citizens. We’ve been here before. It was unconscionable when African Americans were forced to serve in a segregated military in the first half of the last century, and the possible ban on transgender troops is unconscionable now.
The president has clouded the issue by implying at times that these soldiers joined the forces to have the government pay for their operation, but analysis shows healthcare for transgender soldiers no higher than for other soldiers.
The fate of these soldiers now rests with a federal court. On Tuesday, a judge in Washington State gave lawyers seven days to file additional documents before deciding on a request by two advocacy groups, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, which are asking the court to permanently end the president’s transgender ban.
The new order has already caused confusion among troops and recruiters. They don’t know what it will mean for those currently serving.
But why are we even here? Why not judge soldiers on their skill and grit and commitment instead of the gender into which they were born? Trump’s order is ill-conceived and mean-spirited; it excludes instead of being inclusive of Americans.
We hope the courts reject the president’s ban for what it is: an unconstitutional attack on a minority group.