White House Announces Policy to Keep Transgender People From the Military

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The White House released a memo Friday night banning most transgender troops from serving in the military. The action by President Trump is a follow-up to his tweets last year where he announced that he wanted to prohibit transgender individuals from military service.  This is clearly a political move designed to appease his right-wing supporters.

The Associated Press reported that the memorandum issued late Friday was based on policies determined by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.  The proclamation states that transgender people are “disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.”

Trump surprised the Pentagon and the entire country in a 2017 tweet announcing his plan to revoke an Obama order which allowed transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military without hiding their transgender status.

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Trump’s initiative to restrict transgenders from military service has been stymied by many legal challenges.  Four separate federal court rulings have determined that the ban is a violation of federal law.

Pentagon officials responded to the court orders by adopting a policy which allows transgenders currently in the military to stay and complete their service. In fact, they began allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the military in January 1, 2018.

There seems to be some confusion about the impact of Trump’s new memo given the history of adverse court rulings.  Of course the White House issued statements saying the transgender ban was a terrific idea and a much-needed new development.

“This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained Friday night.

Congressional Democrats and prominent civil rights groups immediately denounced Trump’s mean-spirited announcement.

Nancy Pelosi sent out a tweet Friday night which said “No one with the strength & bravery to serve in the U.S. military should be turned away because of who they are. This hateful ban is purpose-built to humiliate our brave transgender members of the military who serve with honor & dignity.”

The biggest LGBT civil rights organization in the country, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC),  attacked the Trump administration for supporting what they called“anti-transgender prejudices onto the military.”

“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,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

A senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Joshua Block, issued a statement in which he said that Trump’s 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.”

AP reported that Defense Secretary Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen agreed with Trump’s new transgender policy.

A spokesperson for the Pentagon, Maj. David Eastburn, indicated that the Pentagon is required by law to recruit and retain transgender people as they have been doing. Therefore, he said, the president’s new announced transgender ban would have “no immediate practical effect.”