Metro Weekly

45 U.S. senators urge Mattis to nix Trump’s proposed trans military ban

Letter to Defense Secretary says forcible discharges of trans soldiers will hurt military readiness and morale

Gen. James Mattis – Photo: U.S. Department of Defense.

A bipartisan group of 45 senators has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis urging him to advise President Tump against implementing a proposed ban on allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in the U.S. military.

The letter was introduced and circulated by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and signed by 42 other Democrats, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine).

In their letter, the senators say the president’s proposal contradicts existing Defense Department policies, undermines military readiness, and puts those out transgender service members who are currently serving at risk of being discharged.

Trump made the announcement of the ban on Wednesday via Twitter, which reportedly took Mattis and others at the Department of Defense by surprise. Thus far, the Department of Defense has not received formal guidance on how to implement this shift in policy, according to Politico

As a result, the department has not yet modified its existing policy, which, despite a six-month delay, has been moving toward allowing new transgender recruits to begin serving openly starting next year.

“We appreciate [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General Dunford’s message that no policy changes should be made until implementation guidelines have been issued,” the senators write in their letter.
 
“We further write to request that, at a minimum, you do not separate any service member due to the person’s gender identity until you have completed the assessment that you announced on June 30, have reported back to Congress about any challenges that you foresee in the accession and retention of transgender troops, and determined the Department is unable to mitigate these challenges.”

 

The senators also note that transgender service members have been allowed to serve openly since June of last year, when then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted an existing ban that prevented them from acknowledging their gender identity while serving.

Since that time, the senators say, there have been no reports of problems stemming from having to accommodate transgender service members. As such, it would be unfair to have transgender service members forcibly discharged just because of their identity, rather than their ability to carry out their duties.

“Forcing these brave Americans out of our military would be cruel and discriminatory,” the letter reads. “It would harm our readiness by denying the military of these service members’ capabilities and requiring the military to replace them at a time when the recruiting pool for services continues to shrink. It will harm morale in the military as service members see their brothers and sisters in arms — some of whom are currently forward deployed — thrown out simply because of their identity.
 
“Any American who wants to serve and meets the standards should be allowed to serve our country,” the letter concludes. “Transgender service members are serving with honor and distinction today and we ask that you, as our Secretary of Defense, assure them that their service will not be ended simply because of who they are.”
 
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com