Trump’s Backtracking on White Nationalism is a Failure of American Leadership

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today strongly condemned President Trump’s statements assigning blame to “both sides” for the horrific violence against counter-protestors at a neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and saying that there were “some very fine people on both sides.” In response, Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino issued the following statement:

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Legion of Retired Generals and Admirals Condemn Trump’s Trans Military Ban

In a clear repudiation of the President’s harmful and ill-conceived Twitter policy-making, 56 retired Generals and Admirals released a joint statement warning President Trump’s transgender military ban would degrade military readiness.

According to the statement released today by the Palm Center, the decorated military brass not only condemned Trump’s reckless ban, but also declared their unwavering support for thousands of brave trans service members already serving our country with valor. 

“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,” say the generals and admirals. “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.”

Last week, Trump made the unconscionable decision via Twitter to ban qualified transgender service members from serving “in any capacity” in the military. If implemented, the ban could result in the discharge of more than 15,000 transgender Americans currently serving our country. HRC blasted the ban as an all out assault on an already vulnerable group of service members.

“These retired generals and admirals have made it clear exactly how destructive President Trump’s proposed transgender military ban would be to our nation’s armed forces,” said Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary and Marine veteran. “President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s attack on bravely serving transgender troops is dangerous and unpatriotic. They absolutely must listen to these voices of reason and reverse course in support of ALL of our nation’s heroes, regardless of their gender identity.”

The Generals and Admirals also shot down claims made by Trump that the financial costs associated with trans military service would be too disruptive, saying these claims are “without merit.”

“The financial cost of providing health care to transgender troops would be, at most, $8.4 million per year. This amounts to one one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s annual health care budget,” according to the statement. “As for ostensible disruptions, transgender troops have been serving honorably and openly for the past year, and have been widely praised by commanders.”

Dozens of Senators and House members from both sides of the aisle expressed their outrage over the move, with Senators already requesting the Pentagon not implement the ban. The Defense Department has said they need more guidance from the White House amid widespread confusion following Trump’s announcement.

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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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Human Rights First Welcomes Enactment of Russia Sanctions Bill

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today applauded President Trump’s signing of bipartisan legislation codifying, strengthening, and expanding sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as for corrupt practices and human rights abuses, aggressive activities in Ukraine, and military actions in Syria. 

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Five Horrific Testimonies in LGBT Network’s Report Highlights Chechnya’s Atrocities

The Russian LGBT Network published a new report this week exposing the alleged atrocities endured by gay and bisexual men in Chechnya. The dossier not only breaks down the Russian and Chechen politics that led up to the brutal human rights violations, but also contains horrific testimony from more than 30 survivors. 

Since news first broke in April, reports indicate more than 100 gay and bisexual Chechen men have been arrested and detained without charge. Chechen leaders have denied these accusations, going so far as to deny the very existence of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Nonetheless, there have been numerous verified reports of torture and at least three and possibly as many as 20 men have been killed. HRC continues working closely with the Russian LGBT Network, the primary organization leading efforts to evacuate people in danger in Chechnya.

Here are five personal accounts from LGBT Network’s report highlighting the disturbing conditions gay and bisexual men faced at the hands of Chechen authorities and the culture that encourages families to ostracize or even murder their LGBTQ family members. These victims gave anonymous testimony.

  1. “Every day, I was transported to the premises for torture. It was situated underground. I was beaten there every day. Every new day. <…> It was impossible to sleep there; you could be captured anytime and thrown into another place. There were no windows, nothing. It was always as dark as night. <…> They put plastic bags on my head, and when I was running out of oxygen, they tore the bag away and hit my legs at the same time. <…> We had no water inside. The only water we could drink was when we were going out of the cells.”
  2. “One day, all my relatives were informed about the fact that I was detained. “The Lord” came to us, the chairman of the parliament — Magomed Daudov. We were all set down before the Lord. The Lord approached us, took pictures on his phone, and asked if each of us was gay. We had to answer “yes”. This all happened in front of our relatives. He talked to our relatives, saying that we brought disgrace to the nation and to our families. He told them that if they honor the traditions, they must kill us. And that if they did everything, they would not be punished for it. After all this talk, a few people were released to their relatives.”
  3. “On February ** of 2017, my friend called me late at night and offered to come over. I agreed. When he arrived, I went outside the house to see him. I saw him with other people and immediately realized that it was a set-up. The people who were with him were wearing camouflage uniforms. They said that they were taking me away. They started beating me up and saying humiliating things. They said that I’m not a man, just some creature, that I am nothing. That I should rather be a terrorist than a faggot. That a dirty piece of cloth was worth more than me.”
  4. “We were forced to lie on the floor with our bottoms up, and each person in the cell would hit us with a pipe 3 times. As the week went by, there were already 18 LGBT people being detained and tortured. The youngest was around 17 years old, and the oldest was about 47 years old. We were not allowed to wash. Some detainees developed open-cut wounds, and the cell smelled like rotten meat.”
  5. “One day, when all of us were tortured, the head of the ROVD had a “conversation” with us about the deadly sin of homosexuality. He said that we should be ashamed, and that we are a disgrace for such a proud nation. That there had never been such people among the Chechens. One of us said that there is no way we can change who we are, and he replied that they would continue their efforts to clear the Republic of such contamination. There was a question about our constitutional rights, and he answered: “We have our own laws, and the law is what the current government of the Republic says to do.”

HRC through its  #EyesOnChechnya effort is continuing to take action to stop the atrocities and help the victims. Click here for background information and actions that individuals can take to help end the violence.

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