It all began last July with a series of short tweets from President Donald Trump: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…… Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. 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. Thank you.”
Trump’s tweets were a dramatic about-face from the 2016 policy issued by the President’s predecessor Barack Obama, who had not only allowed transgender soldiers to be recruited, he actually encouraged them to serve.
While the Joint Chiefs of Staff were blindsided by the tweets, and announced that none had been either consulted or agreed with the message it contained, the President took his threat to the court of appeals urging it to suspend a previous order by a federal judge in Baltimore that allowed transgender recruits to be accepted by the military beginning on January 1.
While previous judges, including Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, had questioned the constitutionality of Trump’s mandate, there was no subtlety to the decision announced last Thursday by a three-judge panel in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Virginia, which issued a two-page denial of Trump’s attempts to ban the transgender population, both male and female, from military service.
Ironically, the initial tweets from the President came exactly 69 years to the day that then-President Harry S Truman signed an executive order that desegregated America’s troops.
“It is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country’s defense,” Truman’s order began. I ensured that there would be “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”
In addition to the initial tweets, President Trump redoubled his efforts to keep transgender soldiers out of the military by issuing a formal memorandum to the Department of Defense. Additionally, he made a point of emphasizing that no medical treatment regimens should be extended to transgender soldiers already in the military, and that they would be discharged from service.
Multiple court cases were filed by transgender soldiers currently serving in the military, with the American Civil Liberties Union representing the plaintiffs in the varying cases.
“We are happy that the court saw through the government’s smoke screen and rejected its request to further delay the policy allowing transgender people to enlist,” the ACLU senior staff attorney Josh Block said in a statement obtained by HotSpots. “The military has already developed comprehensive guidance to prepare for a January 1 start date, and the government failed to offer any credible reason why transgender people should be barred from enlisting if they can meet the same rigorous standards that apply to everyone else.”
The outrage over Trump’s exclusion of transgender men and women from military service was nearly unanimous among both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and even the Department of Defense had taken an official position allowing transgender candidates to be recruited.
As late as December 8 of this year, the Department had released guidelines for military recruiters detailing how to enlist transgender men and women into the armed forces. Included within the guidelines was assurance that the Pentagon would comply with Federal court orders.
The recent policy paper was issued by the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command in Chicago, and stated that allowing transgender military service is mandatory. In addition, it repeated a previous directive from Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has said all people will be “treated with dignity and respect.”