The President signed a memorandum that would reverse an Obama-era decision to allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the United States military. Initially announced via Twitter earlier this summer, the memorandum would bar the Department of Defense from providing medical treatment for those transgender service members currently serving.
The directive also calls for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security “to determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving based on military effectiveness and lethality, unitary cohesion, budgetary constraints, applicable law, and all factors that may be relevant.”
“The President is the President for all Americans, and during last year’s campaign he was the first GOP nominee to talk about LGBTQ issues at the GOP convention, but he also was critical of the Obama administration’s change in that longstanding DOD policy,” the official said. “He’s going to continue to ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ community, as well as all Americans, is protected. This policy is based on a series of national security considerations.”
When Trump made the initial Tweet a month ago, it drew the ire of both parties, civil rights advocates and the LGBT community. The decision is being viewed as a setback for LGBT rights even though a 2016 study showed that allowing transgender soldiers to serve openly would have minimal impact. The Rand Corporation study commissioned by the Defense Department showed that there are an estimated 1,320-to 6,630-transgender troops serving across all branches of the military. The study estimated that of those, 30 to 140 would possibly seek new hormone treatments a year into their service with 25 to 130 gender-transition surgeries among active service members. Part of Trump’s initial statement involved cost; the Rand Corp. study said the actual estimated costs would be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year, a small portion of the total health care expenditure.
Attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders are representing five service members who have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ban.
“Two weeks ago, NCLR filed a lawsuit with GLAD that has the power to stop Trump’s transgender military ban. This is a senseless and unprecedented attack on dedicated service members who have played by the rules,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. “Our military already has standards and systems in place to ensure our troops are qualified and fit to serve. Trump’s ban is about politics, not military policy, and it will make our country less secure.”
“This policy is a shameful slap in the face to people who put their lives on the line everyday to defend our country,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director. “Our military is strongest when all people who are fit to serve have the opportunity to do so. This unprecedented policy amounts to a purge of qualified, contributing troops, and will serve only to undermine unit cohesion and weaken military readiness. We are moving quickly with our plaintiffs to see that a court puts a stop to this latest demonstration of President Trump playing politics with people’s lives.”
The Presidential memorandum wasn’t announced until around 6 p.m. Friday evening, when stories about Hurricane Harvey in Texas were dominating national headlines. Upon the announcement, the White House official who spoke to reporters declined to comment on whether or current troops could remain under the new policy. No guidance to implement the ban has been put into place.