116 House Democrats signed a letter to end the transgender military ban

Elizabeth Howe
July 09, 2020 - 10:32 am
Transgender Military Ban

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A total of 116 House Democrats signed and sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper calling for the immediate end of the ban on transgenders in the military. 

“In light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling … we urge the Department of Defense (DOD) to immediately update its policies to eliminate the ban on open transgender military service,” lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Additionally, to prevent further harm to transgender service members, we urge the DOD to instruct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to negotiate the end to litigations challenging the ban.”

On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled discrimination against transgender people in the workplace falls under the broader umbrella of discrimination based on sex -- something prohibited by the Supreme Court through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Does the Supreme Court transgender ruling affect the military transgender ban?

"An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,"  Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote.

So, as of Monday's ruling, firing or discriminating against transgender employees is likewise prohibited by Title VII. 

The question still remains how that ruling will impact the military. While the military is subject to any Supreme Court ruling through the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- so the military is not necessarily exempt from this newest development in transgender rights -- there are ways the military could adjust its ban on transgender personnel to adhere to the June 15 ruling. 

The letter calls for the end of the transgender ban within the military as well as the resolution of four cases of litigation against the ban. 

"Prolonging the litigation in the face of almost certain defeat, and thereby prolonging the existing policy, will continue to inflict serious harm on transgender people seeking to serve our country and on those already serving while living in the shadows, enduring the dignitary harm of being told they’re a burden," the letter reads. 

The Defense bill working its way through Congress includes a bipartisan amendment that would protect transgender service members, extending the Supreme Court ruling. The amendment was originally proposed by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Senate defense spending bill includes bipartisan effort to protect transgender troops

"Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from workplace discrimination, we must ensure these protections are extended to every American, especially transgender service members," Gillibrand said.

"If individuals are willing to put on the uniform of our country and risk their lives for our freedoms, then we should be expressing our gratitude to them, not trying to kick them out of the military," Collins said.

In May of this year -- more than a year after the transgender ban went into effect -- the Navy approved its first waiver allowing a transgender individual to serve under their preferred gender. 

Navy grants first waiver to transgender ban, allowing sailor to serve as preferred gender

The fight over transgender military service began in 2017 with a tweet from President Donald Trump. Legal battles mounted in the following years as the Pentagon clarified its policy for the 9,000 service members it affects.

Court paves way for Pentagon transgender ban

The ban on transgender military personnel went into effect on April 12, 2019. Under the ban, individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria are not able to join the military. Anyone who hopes to join the service must do so under the sex they were assigned at birth. Current service members are unable to transition genders. 

"Over the past year, we've continued to hear from qualified transgender patriots who want to serve their country but can't because of the Trump-Pence transgender military ban," Perkowski added. "As our nation faces unprecedented challenges, the last thing our military should be doing is rejecting qualified individuals who want to serve simply because of their gender identity."

According to a study released by the University of California, Los Angeles in March, the majority of those currently serving in the U.S. military believe that transgender individuals should be allowed to serve. 

More than half of active duty service members against transgender ban, survey says

UCLA, funded by the Department of Defense, surveyed 486 active duty, non-transgender service members from every branch of the military -- 66 percent of them oppose the Trump-Pence transgender military ban.

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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