These 7 vets groups just threw their weight behind transgender military service

Matt Saintsing
October 30, 2018 - 12:43 pm



Seven veterans organizations filed a court brief supporting the military service of transgender troops Monday, as the Trump administration engages in an ongoing legal battle over the issue. 

The amicus brief, also known as a “friend of the court” brief, can be filed by someone or a group who is not a party to the litigation but believes the court’s decision may impact its interest. 

They argue that the ban would unduly harm American military readiness by stripping the armed forces of service members who want to serve and just so happen to be transgender.  

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Protect Our Defenders, New York City Veterans Alliance, High Ground Veterans Advocacy, the National Veterans Legal Service Program, the National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium, and the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) filed the action. 

"For over two years, more than 900 transgender troops have competently and openly served in critical roles in all our forces without problem,” said retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning, director of government operations for SWAN.  “The transgender ban would return the Department of Defense to the dark days of categorically banning otherwise fully-qualified Americans from our armed forces at a time when recruiting and retention are difficult.” 

According to a 2017 Pentagon report, more than 70 percent of young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are not qualified for military service because they’re overweight, have an overall lack of physical fitness, or have criminal and substance abuse histories. 

Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of IAVA, calls the administration’s move banning transgender service “bad for national security.” 

“In an era when so few people step up to serve, no American who is willing and able to wear the uniform should be turned away,” said Rieckhoff. “Diversity makes our national security stronger and the facts back it up.” 

Citing a 2016 Rand Corporation study focusing on transgender service members, Rieckhoff said, “transgender troops are not only serving but that their open service does nothing to harm readiness.” 

The issue of transgender troops is mired in legal battles over the Trump administration’s attempt to bar their military service. A series of federal lawsuits currently block the government from implementing the policy, which Trump first announced in a barrage of tweets in July 2017. 

In July, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the first appellate decision on the executive order Trump issued in March. 

That decision would by and large still ban transgender people from joining the military, but would grant Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to retain those who have been serving openly under the order issued by President Barack Obama in June 2016.