War on Trump’s Transgender Military Ban
SEATTLE, WA – Is President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military the final word? The summer of 2017 is ending without a solid future on the issue. Currently, there are many factors at play and it seems the war for American civil rights has only began.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017, Trump made the initial attack by using the powers of the federal government to roll back civil rights of transgender people, specifically those who wish to serve in the military. In a series of tweets that day, Trump explained that “The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” And: “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
Initially there was surprise all across the board, even from his own military leaders. Now, there is growing backlash. The first of a growing number of legal actions against Trump was filed almost two weeks after Trump’s Twitter announcement. The action of commenced in Miami by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and LGBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders.
On August 25, 2017, Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum implementing his new policy, specifically: 1) no transgender individuals will be allowed to join the armed services unless and until the secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security recommend otherwise; 2) the policy covers the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, 3) no resources will be used for sex change unless the transgender service member is already in treatment. The new policy will become effective March 23, 2018.
While the media uses this ban as a political football, Trump’s actions have very real consequences. For example, 16-Year-Old Drew Layne wants to join the Air Force, however under the new rules banning transgender people from entering the military Layne cannot pursue his goal. On August 28, 2017, Layne and a group of other transgender plaintiffs decided to battle President Trump and his administration for violation of their right to equal protection in court. The lawsuit filed in Washington State by the LGBT advocacy groups Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN.
Layne dreamed of serving his country because his family has a military background, he explained, “I think the ban would affect a lot of people’s futures. They would like to serve and protect their homeland, and it’s basically cutting out people’s futures and plans. I wanted to be part of this lawsuit to be a voice for myself and others who want to serve their country.” Layne only desires a policy where, “anyone who is meeting the necessary requirements [can] be able to serve openly.”
Another transgender plaintiff fighting alongside Layne are Ryan Karnoski, a 22-year-old man of Seattle who currently works as a social worker. Like Layne, Karnoski wishes to become an officer doing social work for the military. Staff Sergeant Cathrine Schmid, a 33-year-old woman who is currently serving in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington also joined the case. Schmid is a 12-year member of the U.S. Army and has applied to become an Army Warrant Officer.
Joining in on the battle are six other Plaintiffs out of Maryland, who are service members, by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU filed their case the same day as Layne and names Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, and Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.
These cases will be extremely important to watch over the next year as the potential outcome will either advance civil rights, or suffocate the progress made over the last few years. If President Trump’s desired ban on transgender people serving in the military is fully implemented, Layne and the other plaintiffs, along with many others across the US—now and in the immediate future—will never fulfill their dreams.
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