Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has made it official: any qualified transgender person will be allowed to serve in the Massachusetts National Guard.
The announcement comes as the Trump administration enforces a policy aimed at banning most transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
Last month, Baker, under pressure from Democratic lawmakers in the Bay State, publicly opined that he supported the right of transgender people to serve in the Armed Forces.
But he stopped short of issuing a declaration that would allow transgender individuals to serve in the Massachusetts National Guard, noting that he wanted to proceed cautiously and was consulting with the office of Attorney General Maura Healey about what could be done.
Even though National Guard units can be called up to federal service by the president, the units themselves are under the command of governors, meaning that individual governors can essentially decide whether to allow transgender people to serve.
In a letter, dated July 16, that was sent to state legislators, Massachusetts’ Secretary of Public Safety, Thomas Turco, said that the Baker administration “will continue to support transgender soldiers and airmen in serving our Commonwealth with dignity and respect.”
Turco also promised that the commonwealth would provide assistance to Massachusetts residents who are seeking individual waivers — which are granted on a case-by-case basis — from the federal government that would allow them to serve in the military, reports WBUR.
Under the current policy, which took effect on April 12, transgender people may only serve in the military if they remain in their biological sex and have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Opponents say this is effectively a ban.
Additionally, anyone who is currently serving who is diagnosed with gender dysphoria can potentially be discharged, based on the assumption that they cannot be easily deployed at a moment’s notice.
The Democratic lawmakers who had previously pressured Baker to offer his opinion on whether transgender people should be allowed to serve praised Baker’s decision to allow trans individuals in the National Guard.
“We are grateful that the Baker administration has stepped up to defend the dignity of all our National Guard members, including those who are transgender,” Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) said in a statement. “Now, we hope that they keep to their word and actively work on behalf of Massachusetts residents to secure waivers from this misguided and malicious federal policy that ignores the advice of our top generals to suit President Trump’s whims.”
“Protecting the right of all to serve our country is an inherent American value and a value of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro) said. “Although I’m angered by the misguided policies of the current occupant of the White House, I am grateful for the commitment in writing from Secretary Turco that the Massachusetts National Guard will continue to embrace all wishing to serve, including transgender and gender non-conforming residents of our Commonwealth. I believe every one who serves our country is a patriot.”
“I am grateful to the Secretary of Public Safety and Security for their continuing commitment to equality for our transgender neighbors,” Rep. Mindy Domb (D-Amherst) said. “I so appreciate the strong support of my colleagues and Governor Baker to resist this administration’s mean-spirited, hateful, disrespectful, and divisive policies towards the transgender community.”
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, one of the groups leading the fight against the Trump administration’s ban, also applauded Baker’s actions, saying that the Pentagon’ s current policy “weakens our military and demeans the Commonwealth’s core values of fairness and equal treatment.”
“We appreciate the commitment of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to ensuring that transgender individuals who meet military standards have every possible opportunity to serve their country and the Commonwealth,” Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement. “Citizens of the birthplace of the National Guard deserve no less.”