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Retired Military Brass, Coast Guard Leader Oppose Trump's Trans Military Ban

Retired Generals John Allen and Claudia Kennedy
Retired Generals John Allen and Claudia Kennedy

Fifty-six retired generals and admirals released a statement of opposition, and the Coast Guard commandant voiced support for trans service members today.

Fifty-six retired generals and admirals have released a statement opposing Donald Trump's announced ban on transgender people in the military.

Also, Coast Guard officials have announced support for that service's trans members and are preparing for a legal battle, The Hill reports.

"This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy," reads the statement from the retired officers, released today through the Palm Center, a San Francisco-based think tank focusing on sexual minorities in the military. "As a result, the proposed ban would degrade readiness even more than the failed 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. Patriotic transgender Americans who are serving -- and who want to serve -- must not be dismissed, deprived of medically necessary health care, or forced to compromise their integrity or hide their identity."

They note that Trump has cited the cost of providing transition-related health care as one reason for the ban, but point out that a study from the RAND Corp. and research published in The New England Journal of Medicine estimate that cost will be no more than $8.4 million a year -- "one one-hundredth of one percent of the military's annual health care budget."

"As for ostensible disruptions, transgender troops have been serving honorably and openly for the past year, and have been widely praised by commanders," the statement continues. "Eighteen foreign nations, including the UK and Israel, allow transgender troops to serve, and none has reported any detriment to readiness."

They also quote two retired chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who have voiced opposition to the ban -- Gen. Martin Dempsey and Adm. Mike Mullen. "Admiral Mullen urged civilian leaders 'to respect the military's judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms.' We could not agree more," the statement concludes.

The signatories represent all branches of the military and include Gen. John R. Allen, the former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command; Vice Adm. Donald Arthur, who was surgeon general of the Navy; and Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to reach that rank.

The Coast Guard news came at an event held this morning at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

"The first thing we did is we reached out to all 13 members of the Coast Guard who have come out" as transgender, Adm. Paul Zukunft, the branch's commandant, told attendees, The Hill reports.

One of the members who has come out was Lt. Taylor Miller, the Coast Guard's first openly transitioning officer, who was the subject of a recent Washington Post story. "If you read that story, Taylor's family has disowned her. ... And I told Taylor, 'I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard and I will not break faith,'" Zukunft said, according to The Hill.

"And so that was the commitment to our people right now," he continued. "Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work today."

He added that he has reached out to John Kelly, who was secretary of Homeland Security before becoming White House chief of staff this week; the Coast Guard is under the supervision of Homeland Security. Kelly in turn contacted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Zukunft said.

He further noted that to fight the ban, the Coast Guard has put together "a tiger team" of lawyers from its Judge Advocate General Corps.

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