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—175 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, in a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to reconsider his proposed ban on transgender individuals in the Armed Forces.
In the letter, the representatives say they believe that the ban is unconstitutional, because it discriminates against transgender people on the basis of their sex.
The members of Congress also say there are strong historical parallels between those opposed to transgender military service and those who resisted other attempts to further expand the pool of potential service members.
“Our Armed Forces have grown more equal and more inclusive over time, often in the face of strident opposition,” the letter reads. “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 They were raised again in 2010, when Congress at last repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’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. Again and again, members of excluded groups have shown that they can serve with distinction; again and again, the military has proved that it can be a respectful home for all.”
The letter, circulated by U.S. Reps. Don McEachin (D-Va.), Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), also attempts to argue against the ban on a point-by-point basis, calling the president’s proposal “detrimental to national security, ill-advise, and contrary to the values upon which our nation was built.”
First, they note, there are thousands of active-duty transgender service members. Thus, they argue, it is highly unlikely that the presence of transgender individuals has caused “disruption” or “burdened” the military.
They also cite a 2016 study conducted by the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit military think tank, at the request of the Department of Defense. In that study, the RAND Corporation found that allowing transgender individuals to serve openly would have “no significant impact on unit cohesion or operational readiness.” Rather, the representatives note in their letter, banning transgender individuals only further depletes an already small pool of potential recruits who are both able and willing to serve in the Armed Forces.
The members of Congress also cite that same study to refute the president’s claims about the exorbitant cost of providing transition-related health care to transgender military members. The RAND Corporation estimates that the annual cost of transition-related medical costs would likely not exceed $8.4 million, out of a total military health care budget of $50 billion.
Lastly, the representatives say they are concerned that the president has not carefully thought out his positions, writing:
“We have strong concerns about the process by which your ban was created. We are troubled by your apparent refusal to appropriately consult with relevant advisors, experts, or military leaders. News reports have characterized your ban as a ‘snap decision’ that ‘caught [the Pentagon] off guard.’ Decisions that touch on national security demand careful consideration and responsible debate; anything less endangers the American people.”
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