Washington: President Donald Trump has banned transgender people from the US military in most circumstances, the latest in a series of actions that may resonate with his most ardent supporters as crucial midterm elections approach.
Trump’s statement was immediately denounced by civil-liberties groups and Democratic leaders, and capped a week in which he touched off a confrontation with China by following through with his campaign pledge to impose sweeping tariffs on Chinese imports, and ousted his national security adviser, who had been seen as a moderating influence, in favour of John Bolton, a hero of the right.
Trump said in the statement late Friday that “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria—individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery—are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”
The ban, which the president first proposed last summer, touched off a legal confrontation and reignited a cultural debate that had already seen fierce disagreements and campaigns in some states to require that students use school restrooms corresponding to their gender at birth.
Citing threats to troop readiness and morale, as well as costs associated with medical services, Trump said in a series of tweets in July that he would reverse President Barack Obama’s policy allowing transgender people to join the armed forces.
“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the U.S. government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” the president said then, though the announcement seemed to catch the Pentagon off guard.
In a Department of Defense memorandum to the president dated that was dated 22 February, defence secretary James Mattis said that after studying the question, the Pentagon “concludes that there are substantial risks associated with allowing the accession and retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria and require, or have already undertaken, a course of treatment to change their gender.”
Mattis recommended, however, that service members “who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria since the previous administration policy took effect and prior to the effective date of this new policy, may continue to serve in their preferred gender.” He also said that exceptions could be granted for people “who have been stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession;” or had been “diagnosed with gender dysphoria” after they entered the military but did not require a change for gender.
Opponents, some of whom had been fighting the administration in court, quickly responded to Trump’s latest statement.
“The policy effectively coerces transgender people who wish to serve into choosing between their humanity and their country,” Joshua Block, a senior staff lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.
Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, a California-based institute that researches the military service of sexual minorities, said there was “no evidence to support a policy that bars from military service patriotic Americans who are medically fit and able to deploy.”
Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat and the House minority leader, called the ban “cowardly, disgusting.”
“No one with the strength and bravery to serve in the U.S. military should be turned away because of who they are,” Pelosi said in a statement.
In the 2016 campaign, Trump actively sought the support of socially conservative groups, some of whom supported the bathroom access restrictions, while also promising to “fight for” the gay and transgender community.
Gregory T. Angelo—president of Log Cabin Republicans, a group that advocates for equal rights for the LGBT community—said in a statement that the policy appeared to allow “continued open service of current transgender soldiers,” tantamount to an admission by the Pentagon that “there is ultimately no difficulty with the status quo” and that the policy is reverse engineered and may succeed only in “stoking culture wars.”
More challenges planned
Civil rights advocates said while some transgender service members might be permitted to continue to serve under the announced policy, the exceptions seemed unclear and the policy was likely to foster a hostile climate for those who seek to continue to serve. They said they would continue to fight the policy in the courts.
At least four lawsuits have been filed seeking to overturn the ban, and several courts issued preliminary injunctions while the cases proceed. In November, US district judge Marvin Garbis in Baltimore, called the president’s tweets announcing the change in policy “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified.”
And last week, a federal judge in Washington said that the Trump administration had failed to identify evidence it might use to defend the policy.
That judge, Marsha Pechman, criticized the administration’s earlier claims that no such information could be identified because the policy was not in effect.livemint