THE U.S. Supreme Court recenly issued a green light for discrimination against American soldiers, sailors and Marines who are transgender — a decision that means the Trump administration can begin enforcing a heartless policy that will expel legions of patriots who have served their country well. Many new recruits will also be turned away.
The policy will upend the lives of potentially thousands of men and women in uniform and bring careers to a cruel and premature close. For many other troops, the policy means either having to relinquish their uniforms or once more having to hide their true gender identities.
Congress should demand the Trump administration reverse course on this pointless ban and restore the 2016 directive that permitted transgender troops to serve openly, seek ordinary medical care, and to do so as men or women regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth. The move had signaled progress and long-overdue acceptance into the mainstream not just for troops, but for the transgender community as a whole. Its devastating reversal will be just as broadly felt.
The Trump administration’s ban of transgender people in the military has been challenged in at least four federal courts and was put on hold while courts considered whether it was legal. Tuesday’s decision by the high court, on a 5-4 vote without any commentary, quashes a series of stays ordered by lower district courts and appellate courts, allowing the policy to take effect while litigation continues.
This course will only lead to instability. Since there’s a very real chance the policy will eventually be overturned, the administration should delay implementing it until its legal status is confirmed, as ordered last July by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The district court’s preliminary injunction preserves the status quo, allowing transgender service members to serve in the military in their preferred gender and receive transition-related care,” the court reasoned. “Appellants ask this court to stay the preliminary injunction, pending the outcome of this appeal, in order to implement a new policy. Accordingly, a stay of the preliminary injunction would upend, rather than preserve, the status quo.”
Trump’s initial announcement, via tweet, that he planned to expel transgender troops and new recruits from the armed services took almost everyone by surprise — including then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It was a blatant effort to pay political favors to the religious right and others in America who’ve increasingly targeted transgender individuals in recent years.
No short-term political gains from such a sop are worth such callous treatment of our troops.
Thousands of troops who serve our country loyally and effectively identify as transgender. The Obama rule allowed them to stop hiding that fact and, when necessary, seek medical and psychological care needed to remain healthy. Many military leaders told Congress that their presence in the military had not led to concerns about unit cohesion or military readiness. And when Mattis finally did put Trump’s order into a new policy, it was a softer, somewhat kinder approach than the president’s bare-boned discriminatory version.
For instance, some transgender troops who do not need sex reassignment — either through surgery or hormone treatments — may be allowed to remain in uniform. Some recruits, particularly those who will not in the future transition from one assigned gender to another, may be allowed to join.
Mattis’ memorandum argued that paying for medical care for transgender troops is too high, and that troops who are diagnosed with profound unease with their birth gender are too fragile and too troubled to remain in the service. But cost estimates for the care put the average annual cost across all transgender troops at only hundreds of dollars. And as for the idea that troops who transition are inherently unfit for service, the long record of professionalism among the thousands of troops who are already in the services suggests otherwise.
Obviously some cases will present challenges that would put personnel out of fighting form for too long, or could require more than easily available care. In those cases, as in any medical discharge determination, individual facts will lead to case-by-case decisions. But a blanket decision rendering a whole class of personnel unfit to serve is, at its core, discriminatory — and badly mistaken.
This official marginalization of transgender troops should be rescinded. At the very least, it should be sidelined until the courts can finish their scrutiny.
The Houston Chronicle | AP