War with North Korea might derail Trump’s transgender troop ban
Threats of military action against North Korea might derail the US government’s plans to purge transgender people from the military.
Trump stirred anger last month by announcing he would impose a ban on transgender soldiers serving openly in the military.
Reversing a decision under Barack Obama, Trump claimed in a string of tweets that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail”.
The loosely-worded announcement, which was made without detail or consultation with military leaders, has been drawn up into a directive that is expected to see active-duty transgender people dismissed from their roles.
But the heightening tensions between President Trump and North Korea might prevent the policy from going into effect, it has emerged.
North Korea this week threatened a strike on a US military base in Guam, while Trump vowed to respond with “fire and fury”.
According to the Los Angeles Blade, the directive on purging transgender troops – which was set to be sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis – has been temporarily shelved as the White House and military scrambles to ready itself for the threat of military action.
A Pentagon source told the outlet that all military issues aside from North Korea have been “temporarily sidelined”.
This includes the unpublished directive, titled ‘A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out’, as Mattis puts a hold on all personnel matters likely to impact readiness.
The Pentagon and White House are already facing lawsuits over the proposed transgender ban.
Yesterday five soldiers with more than 60 combined years of service have filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s planned ban on transgender people in the military.
Lawyers from GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of 5 transgender service members with nearly 60 years of combined military service.
The plaintiffs serve in the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Army. Their years of service range from three years to two decades, and include tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The plaintiffs have not been publicly identified, so they cannot be targeted in the purge – but they say due to the decision they face dramatic uncertainty about their futures including the potential loss of their professions, livelihoods, and post-military and retirement benefits.
One plaintiff said: “Last year, the Department of Defense announced that transgender people could serve openly.
“I was very relieved and came out as transgender to my commanding officers, who were supportive. My experience has been positive and I am prouder than ever to continue to serve.
“I am married and have three children, and the military has been my life. But now, I’m worried about my family’s future.”
There are estimated to be thousands of transgender service members who are currently serving openly in the Armed Forces, in the wake of Obama-era reforms that allowed them to do so.
Jennifer Levi, Director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, said: “The Commander in Chief has said that transgender service members — people who have served our nation with honor and distinction — are no longer welcome to serve.
“This unjustifiable reversal of policy is devastating to these soldiers and harmful to our country. These plaintiffs put their lives on the line every day for all of us. We can’t afford to lose a single one of them.
Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and NCLR Legal Director, said: “Trump’s directive to exclude transgender people from military service has created a tidal wave of harms that have already been felt throughout our armed services.
“Transgender service members have been blindsided by this shift and are scrambling to deal with what it means for their futures and their families.
“The President’s mistreatment of these dedicated troops will serve only to weaken and demoralize our armed forces.”
The lawsuit calls for a “permanent injunction prohibiting the categorical exclusion of transgender people from military service”, and a “declaratory judgment that the President’s directive to categorically exclude transgender people from military service is unconstitutional.”
It alleges that the order violates Equal Protection and Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
It says: “President Trump’s directive to exclude transgender people from military service discriminates against Plaintiffs based on their sex and transgender status, without lawful justification, in violation of the Equal Protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
“The categorical exclusion of transgender people from military service lacks a rational basis, is arbitrary, and cannot be justified by sufficient federal interests.”