Donald Trump showed his willingness to turn back civil rights progress and banned transgender people from military service, he announced today.
The decision will likely lead to discharge for the many transgender people who had come out of the closet when President Obama's administration announced a repeal of the previous ban. And it will only further encourage a wave of anti-trans sentiment that is spreading across the country, putting transgender people even outside the military in danger.
\u201cAfter consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......\u201d
Transgender people in the military were able to serve openly and have access to insurance coverage for transition-related medical procedures since last year, under a policy announced by Ash Carter, Defense secretary under President Obama. Previously, trans people were barred from serving, although many did -- in the closet and without the coverage. Now the country will return to those days, except that so many trans people had already come out of the closet. They will presumably now be discharged. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates there are 15,000 transgender Americans now serving.
Enrollment of new trans recruits was supposed to begin July 1 of this year, but the current Defense secretary, James Mattis, decided to delay that by six months. Mattis actually opposes military service by all LGBT people, including gays and lesbians. In a book published in 2016, long after repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy by the Obama administration, Mattis and his fellow editors said they "fear that an uninformed public is permitting political leaders to impose an accretion of social conventions that are diminishing the combat power of our military." Mattis coedited the book, Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military, with a policy adviser from the failed McCain-Palin campaign.
Foreign Policy magazine reported Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence had been working to undo advances made by the Obama administration. His spokesman had denied the report. Meanwhile, a push to ban medical coverage for transgender military service members had just been turned back. The House of Representatives on July 13 narrowly voted down an amendment to a Defense spending bill put forth by Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri.
One day before Trump announced his military ban, senators in Texas voted to ban transgender people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity whenever they're in a local government building or at a public school. The ban, which still must be approved by the House, would have an immediate impact on thousands of kids in schools. That follows on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolling back guidance from the Obama administration that had asked schools to acknowledge transgender people exist by always recognizing them by their gender identity.
While running for president, candidate Trump repeatedly claimed to be an ally to LGBT people -- an even better ally than Hillary Clinton, he'd said. While LGBT people themselves were largely not fooled by the rhetoric, some family and friends were. This latest action by the Trump administration is further evidence that Trump opposed to LGBT rights, activists say.
"His administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government - even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD. "Today further exposed President Trump's overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn't make that any more clear."