(August 29, 2017) President Donald Trump’s policy regarding transgender individuals and military service has attracted lawsuits and was almost instantly condemned by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
On Friday, Trump released his policy that bans transgender men or women from joining the military, ends use of military funds for the surgery to change sex, and puts the onus on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis regarding the continued service of transgender personnel already in the military.
McCain criticized the policy hours after it was released, saying in a statement, “It would be a step in the wrong direction to force currently serving transgender individuals to leave the military solely on the basis of their gender identity rather than medical and readiness standards that should always be at the heart of Department of Defense personnel policy. The Pentagon’s ongoing study on this issue should be completed before any decisions are made with regard to accession.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, called Trump’s action “a cravenly opportunistic act of discrimination against men and women who volunteer to defend the United States.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former Illinois National Guardsman and wounded veteran of the war in Iraq, said the policy would be “disruptive to the military.”
Meanwhile, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of six active-component military members arguing that the ban is unconstitutional because it discriminates against transgender people.
Another lawsuit has been field by Lamda Legal and OutServe-SLDN on behalf of three transgender plaintiffs. The suit seeks a reversal of Trump’s plan. An attorney for Lamda Legal, Peter Renn, said the policy “wrongfully prevents patriotic, talented Americans from serving” and compromises the nation’s security.
The Pentagon commissioned a RAND study last year before allowing transgender people to serve. That study found that doing so would cost little and have no significant impact on unit cohesion and readiness.
Col. Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday it is too soon for the military to know how many transgender troops are serving. Studies have ranged from 4,000 to 15,000.
“We just haven’t gotten there yet, but that’s what’s going to be looked at as part of the implementation guidance, that deeper look,” Manning told reporters.