Trump, Pence Force Their Hate and Discrimination onto the Military with Transgender Ban

Today, HRC strongly condemned a White House directive that interferes in Department of Defense personnel policy by pushing forward President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s transgender military ban. HRC called on Secretary of Defense James Mattis to protect transgender service members from the vicious political assault.

The new directive bans at least some medically necessary transition-related health care and extends the ban on transgender people enlisting or commissioning into the military. The long term issue of currently serving transgender troops’ continued service remains unresolved.

“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are forcing their hate, bigotry, and discrimination onto the military with this transgender ban,” said Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary and Marine veteran. “Secretary Mattis has a solemn responsibility to protect transgender troops from this vile political attack. We have a responsibility to treat every service member with the honor, respect, and benefits they have earned. And no qualified and talented American should be turned away from the military just because of their gender identity. Donald Trump’s attack on currently serving troops and his refusal to treat every service member equally proves once again he is unfit to be commander in chief.”

More than a year ago, the Pentagon lifted the archaic ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military, joining eighteen other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel, which allow transgender people to serve openly in their militaries. The Pentagon made the change after a year-long intensive working group that studied the implications of transgender military service.  A study sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of RAND’s National Defense Research Institute found that there would be minimal health care costs and negligible readiness implications associated with allowing transgender people to serve in the military — contrary to the rhetoric and unfounded claims from anti-LGBTQ activists.

Estimates show there are thousands of actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense (DoD) the largest employer of transgender people in America.  Thousands of transgender Americans have served with honor and distinction in our military, including the more than 134,000 transgender veterans who are alive today.  

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A Familiar Form of Discrimination

This piece originally appeared in U.S. News & World Report and was authored by Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary.

It was with a familiar sickness of heart that I watched as President Donald Trump launched an all-out assault on the LGBTQ community and active duty service members by tweeting that he is reinstating a transgender military service ban.

You see, I’ve been there. My own service in the Marine Corps was cut short because of “don’t ask, don’t tell” – the archaic and deeply discriminatory law that barred gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans from serving openly in the military. I was discharged because I am gay. I still mourn the loss of the career I had aimed for, serving the country I love.

Sadly, Trump’s heinous and disgusting action – which could lead to the discharge of as many as 15,000 transgender Americans serving our country at this critical time – is “don’t ask, don’t tell” all over again. Trump’s nakedly political aim to isolate, target and discriminate against transgender troops courageously serving our country has, in a few hundred Twitter characters, threatened to return us to a deeply shameful policy that weakens our military. Discharging thousands of highly trained and talented troops just because of their gender identity would be unconscionable.

I was just out of college when I decided to enlist, after the tragic events of Sept. 11. Though I was proud to honorably serve my country in the U.S. Marine Corps, after re-enlisting for another four years, I knew I could no longer go on pretending I wasn’t gay.

I wanted to continue to serve, but the law said I was suddenly unfit for duty, simply because of who I am. A huge burden was lifted off of my family’s shoulders when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was finally repealed under President Barack Obama, allowing my Marine husband to keep his distinguished career. He’s now serving a year-long deployment in one of the world’s most dangerous areas.

So you can imagine my outrage that Trump would seek to implement this kind of discriminatory, unpatriotic policy. Our transgender service members wear the same uniform, take the same oath and are heroes who put their lives on the line to protect our country and promote security around the globe.

All of our brave troops – including my husband, who is currently serving in harm’s way – are counting on us to have their backs, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Instead, since the day he set foot in the White House, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have appointed anti-LGBTQ extremists across the government and sought to roll back our rights at every turn. It’s bad enough that Trump and Pence oppose marriage equality, that they endorse license to discriminate laws, that they defend anti-LGBTQ measures like North Carolina’s HB2, that they appoint anti-equality justices and that they campaign with anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

It is a new low to target thousands upon thousands of actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, and impugn the honor of tens of thousands more who have served with valor and distinction — including more than 134,000 transgender veterans who are alive today. This attack undermines military readiness and harms the military’s ability to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, regardless of their gender identity.

I hope that every service member and veteran who has fought for our country will see the injustice in what Trump and Pence have done. I hope they will join me in standing up to this disgraceful assault on our fellow service members.

We enlist and commission to protect our most fundamental values: freedom, justice, equality under the law. It is an outrageous tragedy that our commander in chief has decreed transgender troops – who are fighting for those ideals we all share – should be treated so shamefully.

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TN Lawmakers Vote to Undermine Protections for Women & LGBTQ People in Effort to Challenge Marriage

HRC condemned a vote by the Tennessee Senate passing HB 1111 — a measure that could undermine certain protections under state law for women and LGBTQ people in a shameful effort to challenge the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision on marriage equality. The bill now heads to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk.

The measure would require that courts and agencies apply a so-called “natural” meaning interpretation of gendered statutory language, including those involving the rights of husbands and wives. This unconstitutional proposal would be in direct conflict with state and federal law that requires gender-specific words be interpreted as gender-inclusive.

“In a shameful haste to undermine marriage equality, the Tennessee State Legislature is opening a Pandora’s box of harmful consequences that could impact more than just the LGBTQ community,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This measure would no doubt result in multiple, expensive legal challenges, forcing the state to divert crucial resources that need to be focused on other truly important issues. Governor Bill Haslam must protect the state from the fallout and veto this bill.”

The measure could have both intended and unintended consequences. For example, a woman may not be able to place her wife’s name on the birth certificate of their child. In court proceedings, a married opposite-sex couple could be entitled to confidential communications, but not a married same-sex couple. The measure could even prohibit surrogacy for same-sex couples.

It could have consequences beyond the LGBTQ community as well. It would impact state constitutional protections for women by prohibiting state courts from reading the term “man” to also include “woman.” The Tennessee law requiring no “man’s” services or property be taken without consent or compensation, for example, could suddenly be interpreted to exclude women from these same protections.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion stating the proposed bill could create conflict with current state laws.

HRC has been working in partnership with the Tennessee Equality Project, ACLU of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition in working to stop this legislation from becoming law.

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