In the latest twist in Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, the Pentagon has just made it possible for trans servicemembers to re-enlist. This Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a memo to military leaders. The memo said trans troops can continue to serve and receive medical care.
However, much like the previously reported “freeze,” this isn’t a reversal. The memo basically affirms the status quo while the Pentagon figures out how to enact the trans ban. Trans people who want to join the military, however, are still barred from enlisting.
The ban is unpopular among Democrats and even some Republicans. Sen. John McCain said he would support legislation blocking the trans ban. McCain said “Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve — including those who are transgender.”
However, McCain has a history of sounding more progressive than his voting record. Though he later got credit for killing Trumpcare — he previously voted for the bill, despite saying he wouldn’t. And, in fact, he’s set to vote yes on a different bill designed to gut Obamacare and Medicaid.
Despite being tortured himself — McCain voted against an amendment banning torture by the Pentagon and CIA. In other words, McCain’s talk against the trans ban doesn’t translate into a guaranteed vote against it.
The ACLU asked a Baltimore judge for a temporary hold on the trans ban. Their request included a number of briefs from experts, showing there is no “medical or psychiatric justification” to ban trans people from the military. The Human Rights Campaign has also brought suit against the ban. The HRC case claims the ban violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.
I can think of nothing more distracting or disruptive for a military at war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia than demanding that its leadership identify, locate, and discharge trans service members. The military has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars recruiting, training, and equipping these troops. Trump’s plan, if implemented, would impose real budget costs, undermining any insignificant savings derived by denying these service members medically necessary health care.
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