LGBT organizations are slamming comments made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on open military service.
On Monday, during a campaign appearance, the business mogul responded to a question about the Obama administration’s “social experiments” of allowing women and transgender individuals to serve in the military, saying, “We’re going to get away from political correctness.”
Appearing in a panel interview at the Retired American Warriors PAC in Herndon, Va., an audience member asked Trump a question based on the premise that the Obama administration’s efforts to integrate women and transgender people into the military had allegedly affected the “deployability, readiness and morale” of the those military members who are currently serving.
Trump took the bait, saying: “We have a politically correct military, and it’s getting more politically correct each day, and a lot of people in this room don’t even understand how to do that. That’s through intelligence, not ignorance, believe me. Because some of the things they’re asking you to do, and be politically correct about, are ridiculous.”
In a dig at President Obama — often repeated among conservative political circles — Trump implied that the president had not consulted military leaders before implementing the change.
“I will say, I would leave many of the decisions of some of the things you mentioned, to the admirals, the generals, the people on top,” Trump said. “[W]e’d get our military people to come back and make recommendations to me, and I will follow those recommendations very strongly.”
In response, the American Military Partner Association, which advocates for LGBT servicemembers and their families, called Trump’s statements “deeply disturbing.”
“Allowing transgender service members to openly serve has nothing to do with political correctness,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, the president of AMPA, said in a statement. “It’s about making sure the military is able to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. Anyone who is qualified and willing to serve our nation should be able to do so and receive the support they need and deserve in thanks for their service.”
A spokesperson for SPARTA issued a brief statement: “SPARTA has always maintained that if a service member can meet the standards of the job, then they should be allowed to serve, without regard to gender or gender identity.”
Perhaps the strongest response came from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, which echoed the sentiment expressed by Broadway-Mack.
“Allowing transgender people to serve their country isn’t about politics, it’s about extending them the respect and dignity every service member deserves,” Jay Brown, HRC’s communications director, said in a statement. “This is yet another example of the grave threat that Donald Trump and Mike Pence pose to LGBTQ Americans.”
Brown also defended the decision to allow transgender soldiers to serve openly, noting that it came after years of consultation with military brass and is still being slowly implemented over the course of the next year.
HRC noted that 18 other nations, including chief U.S. allies, allow transgender soldiers to serve openly in their militaries. The organization, which has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, warned that the Department of Defense under a Trump presidency could easily reverse the policy without consulting Congress.
“Just like [Vice presidential candidate] Mike Pence’s record defending the discriminatory, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Donald Trump’s comments today are a reminder that he puts at risk all the gains made by the LGBTQ community over the last eight years,” Brown added.
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