Trump announces future ban on transgender troops

UPDATE — 7/29, 12:40 p.m. EDT: In a Friday letter addressed to Defense Sec. James Mattis, 45 U.S. senators asked the Pentagon to oppose Donald Trump’s recommendation that the military ban transgender Americans from serving and, at the least, not discharge any transgender troops until a six-month review of the new policy implemented under former President Obama is completed.

“(Trump’s) announcement contradicts existing Defense Department policies, undermines our military readiness and puts our transgender service members as well as their commanders in an impossible situation,” the letter read.

 

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday in a series of tweets that transgender individuals will soon have their right to serve in the military taken away.

The unexpected move comes less than a year after the Pentagon granted troops the privilege to change one’s sex in October 2016.

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The informal medium of the order has come as a shock to both military personnel and the general public; and although the president claims to have consulted military officials at great length, those in leadership appear taken aback.

Discomfort and confusion was heightened by Thursday evening, when the Pentagon expected a formal re-hash and elaboration on a law that would be fundamentally groundbreaking. When they did not, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained that the lack of clarity or formalized plan was “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter”.

The declaration produced outrage among both Democrats and Republicans and stirred protesters to organize emergency marches in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Another march on the nation’s Capitol is scheduled for Saturday, July 29.

Particularly vociferous in expressing dissent to Trump’s action are Congressional members that have themselves served. Protests on the matter range from Rep. Tim Walz’s (I-Minn.) blunt statement that Trump’s ruling is “completely unacceptable” to Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s seething remark:

“When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, or anything else.”

Nevertheless, Defense Secretary James Mattis has approved the services to defer accessing transgender applicants until Jan. 1, 2018.

“The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the readiness and lethality of our forces,” said Dana White, chief Pentagon spokeswoman.

Coming at the same time was the Trump administration’s rejection of the “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest” (MAVNI) program, which was created to induct immigrants with special skills, such as medical, cultural, and/or language expertise, to the U.S. military. MAVNI has been frozen by the Pentagon at the president’s request.

“To choose service members on other ground than military qualification is social policy and has no place in our military,” remarked former Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, the founder of MAVNI, said the proposal to reject individuals based on an international security threat could be a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

“If you were a bad guy who wanted to infiltrate the Army, you wouldn’t risk the many levels of vetting required in this program. . . . They’re subjecting this whole entire group of people to this extreme vetting, and it’s not based on any individual suspicion of any of these people. They’ve passed all kinds of security checks already. That in itself is unconstitutional,” she said.

Some Republicans, despite expressing distaste for the new policy, still consider the issue of government spending on medical transgender surgery key to reversing the Obama-era policy. While Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a 23-year Army veteran, says that anyone should serve who is qualified to serve, her spokesperson made clear that Ernst does not think taxpayers should pay for sex changes.

According to a RAND analysis commissioned by the Dept. of Defense, the cost of gender-transition coverage would amount to $2.4 million–$8.4 million annually; a pittance compared to the $84 million the government already spends every year providing medication for erectile dysfunction.

Not to mention the fact that military healthcare isn’t too slick anyway; as one spouse of an officer reflects, government funding for medical expenses is restricted. Wait-times in lobbies and for pharmaceuticals are long and stressful, and the range of doctors are limited: “[W]hen the government spends other people’s money, they have to be careful. They have to make wise choices. And the beneficiaries don’t wield much power.”

The military’s medical system is also not as rewarding as people would like to believe. As Richard Custin, an attorney who teaches legal ethics and business law at the University of San Diego explains, the Feres doctrine wrongfully protects military hospitals from accusations of malpractice.

“Under Feres, the government can’t be sued for injuries that are ‘incident to service’,” explains Custin. “‘Incident to service’ is a soldier charging a hill who gets injured and then questions the order. But babies? Birth injuries? That’s not incident to service. Having your appendix rupture. That’s not incident to service.”

So far, Sec. Mattis has remained silent on the matter, but the Pentagon expects a more organized effort from the administration in the coming days.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joints Chief of Staff, has firmly stated that no changes to the system in place will be made until Mattis receives and processes the order into “implementation guidance”.

 

[RT America] [The Atlantic] [Military.com] [AP] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy Getty Images]