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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