BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE
In the wake of President Trump making good on his pledge to ban transgender people from the U.S. military, 143 House Democrats led by Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) are calling on him to “reconsider the ill-advised and indefensible policy.”
In a letter dated Aug. 29, the lawmakers dispute assertions transgender people would be a “disruption” to the military service — an argument Trump made in his memo directing the Pentagon to enact the ban.
“Rather, their sacrifices have made our nation safer and stronger,” the letter says. “Transgender service members wear the same uniform and complete the same missions as their cisgender peers. In combat, their lives are in equal peril. They serve with equal distinction; they are equally deserving of our gratitude and respect.”
Signers of the letter include members of the Democratic caucus: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Chair of the Democratic Caucus Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.). Other signers are Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.), chair of the Transgender Task Force, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). No Republicans are among the signers.
“Implicitly, your ban denies the value of transgender service members, and it questions the professionalism of those who serve beside them,” the letter says. “Our Armed Forces have grown more equal and more inclusive over time, often in the face of strident opposition. In 1948, when President Truman moved to racially integrate the military, voices were raised in protest. They were raised again in 2010, when Congress at last repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ At every turn, those voices have been proven wrong.”
The House Democrats’ objection to Trump’s transgender military ban is consistent with unified opposition from the caucus to an amendment proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) that would have barred U.S. military payment for transition-related health care, including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. The amendment was defeated on the House floor on a bipartisan basis before Trump banned transgender people from the military outright.
Trump issued his memo directing the U.S. military to ban transgender people from the armed forces on Friday, making good on his pledge via Twitter to bar them from the military “in any capacity.” Three lawsuits from LGBT legal groups are now pending before various federal courts seeking to overturn the policy.
With litigation underway, the letter from Democrats makes the case the trans military ban won’t hold up in court, calling the policy “indefensible.”
“We are deeply concerned about the clear unconstitutionality of your ban,” the letter says. “As existing case law makes clear, the government cannot discriminate against transgender people on the basis of their status or sex – and the military is not exempt from constitutional requirements. It is not clear to us that your administration has reckoned with these realities.”
A White House spokesperson had no comment in response to the letter said Trump stands behind his memo. Trump has defended his plan to ban transgender people by saying he’s doing the military “a favor” while making the (incorrect) claim he enjoys considerable support from the LGBT community.