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Sec of Defense Mattis’ memo: ‘Do the right thing’ after White House OKs trans military ban

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis tells senators on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that President Donald (Photo by Defense Department)

The “Memorandum For All Department of Defense Employees” from Sec. of Defense James Mattis was released around the same time the news broke that the White House Counsel’s Office had cleared the new ban on open transgender military service, approved by President Donald Trump. The revised policy is expected to be sent to Mattis for his review and implementation.

Nowhere in the Aug. 4 memo is the word “transgender” mentioned. But since “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out” contains no language protecting currently serving transgender servicemembers against harassment, including of those in combat and on foreign bases, it appears Mattis felt it necessary to remind the troops and other Defense Department employees of the high ethical standards expected of U.S. military personnel, setting “an honorable example in all we do.”

Using a baseball analogy, Mattis writes: “I expect every member of the Department to play the ethical midfield. I need you to be aggressive and show initiative without running the ethical sidelines, where even one misstep will have you out of bounds. I want our focus to be on the essence of ethical conduct: doing what is right at all times, regardless of the circumstances or whether anyone is watching.”

The ethical dilemma is a direct result of the insulting sudden reversal—apparently a political sop by Trump to the Religious Right—of the well-developed 2016 policy announcing the implementation of open service by trans individuals. The plan for trans inclusion included a timeline for rollout and review, as well as guidance on medical issues.

“This policy was crafted through a comprehensive and inclusive process that included the leadership of the Armed Services, medical and personnel experts across the Department, transgender Service members, outside medical experts, advocacy groups, and the RAND Corporation, “ says the “Transgender Service Member Policy Implementation Fact Sheet.”  “Starting today: Otherwise qualified Service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service solely for being transgender individuals.”

And, the 2016 fact sheet said: “Any discrimination against a Service member based on their gender identity is sex discrimination and may be addressed through the Department’s equal opportunity channels.”

An extrapolation of Mattis’ memo suggests that he is not uncomfortable with trans servicemembers getting a lawyer and preparing to fight the ban coming from Trump’s White House.

“To ensure each of us is ready to do what is right, without hesitation, when ethical dilemmas arise, we must train and prepare ourselves and our subordinates,” says Mattis. “Our prior reflection and our choice to live by an ethical code will reinforce what we stand for, so we remain morally strong especially in the face of adversity.”

Mattis’ memo in some ways reflects the ethical standards so well articulated by Adm. Mike Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2010, when he argued that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in America’s Armed Forces.

“We have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen said. “For me, personally, it comes down to integrity: Theirs as an individual, ours as an institution.”

In his Aug. 4 memo, Mattis says: “Through our example and through coaching of all hands, we will ensure ethical standards are maintained. Never forget, our willingness to take the Oath of Office and to accept the associated responsibilities means that even citizens who have never met us trust us to do the right thing, never abusing our position nor looking the other way when we see something wrong. I am proud to serve alongside you.”

Though Trump said he had discussed the ban with his generals,  Mattis had only been informed of Trump’s position just before the infamous tweets on July 26, which blindsided the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Republican Senators with reputations for caring about the military were shocked by the announcement of the ban.

“There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity,” war hero Sen. John McCain said in a statement.

“We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so.”

“People who are transgender, they don’t choose to be transgender — they’re born that way — and why should we hold that against them?” Republican Senator Orrin Hatch told MSNBC.

Iowa Senators Ernst and Grassley opposed the proposed ban, too. The Cedar Rapids area TV station KWWL News 7 posted this on their website.

—“Reaction to his tweet was unsurprisingly swift across the country.  In Iowa, Senator Joni Ernst, a 23-year military veteran, says she disagrees with President Trump.  The Des Moines Register reports that Ernst spokesperson, Brook Hougesen, wrote in an email that the senator “believes what is most important is making sure service members can meet the physical training standards, and the willingness to defend our freedoms and way of life.” He continued, “[w]hile she believes taxpayers shouldn’t cover the costs associated with a gender reassignment surgery, Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity.”

Senator Ernst is the first female combat veteran to serve in the United States Senate. She also served as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.

Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Grassley spoke with multiple Iowa reporters during his weekly phone call with them Wednesday afternoon.

“We have certain standards to get in the military: weight standards, education standards, the ability to do a job, those physical capabilities.  And if you’re a person – man or woman or any other category you want to name – then you meet those standards, you ought to be able to get in, ” Grassley said.” —

With Trump on a 17-day vacation and Congress out on their August recess, the fallout for this political maneuver that could dramatically harm the lives and careers of 15,000 transgender servicemembers has fallen to Sec. of Defense Mattis.

Early Saturday morning, Defense Department spokesperson Paul R. Haverstick Jr., LTC USARMY OSD PA (US) told the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson: There is no new information to report. We will send out an updated statement when we receive guidance.”

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN are gearing up for a fight.

“The move to purge transgender military personnel is dishonorable to the thousands of transgender men and women who are serving our country with courage and who are integral parts of our armed services. The safety of all service members – transgender or not – is undermined by a policy like this that distracts from the important missions they have for no valid reason. It is also a slap in the face of the leadership who have worked diligently to develop and implement the current policy which has been in place for more than a year without incident,” says transgender military veteran Sasha Buchert, a Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal.

“The tweeted military trans ban has already been condemned by more than 56 retired generals and admirals and a large percentage of Republican and Democratic senators and representatives.  A majority of Americans support allowing transgender troops to serve openly,” the statement continues. “This mean-spirited and discriminatory attack on our community is capricious, irrational, and clearly driven by anti-LGBT forces in the administration who care more about harming transgender people than keeping our nation safe. It is clearly unconstitutional. Lambda Legal has a long history of fighting for LGBT service members, and, teaming up with OutServe-SLDN, we’re more than ready to fight like hell again. See you in court, President Trump.”

 

 

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal court blocks part of Alabama trans medical treatment law

“Kids in Alabama can now continue to receive this lifesaving care, & doctors cannot be prosecuted simply for doing their jobs”

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Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse, Birmingham, Alabama (Photo Credit: US Courts/DXR)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a 32 page ruling released Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke preliminarily enjoined the state from enforcing the law criminalizing medical care for transgender minors in Alabama.

The law made it a felony for Doctors and licensed healthcare providers to give gender-affirming puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors.

Burke, who was nominated to the bench by former President Donald Trump to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, wrote that the section of the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act that makes treatment of trans minor children a felony; “the Court finds that there is a substantial likelihood that Section 4(a)(1)–(3) of the Act is unconstitutional and, thus, enjoins Defendants from enforcing that portion of the Act pending trial.”

Judge Burke however ruled that all other provisions of the Act remain in effect, specifically: (1) the provision that bans sex-altering surgeries on minors; (2) the provision prohibiting school officials from keeping certain gender-identity information of children secret from their parents; and (3) the provision that prohibits school officials from encouraging or compelling children to keep certain gender-identity information secret from their parents.

The U.S. Department of Justice had challenged the state’s  SB 184 – a bill that would criminalize doctors for providing best-practice, gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary youth.

In the filing by the Justice Department, the complaint alleges that the new law’s felony ban on providing certain medically necessary care to transgender minors violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The department is also asking the court to issue an immediate order to prevent the law from going into effect.

S.B. 184 makes it a felony for any person to “engage in or cause” specified types of medical care for transgender minors. S.B. 184 thus discriminates against transgender youth by denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care.

It further discriminates against transgender youth by barring them from accessing particular procedures while allowing non-transgender minors to access the same or similar procedures. The penalties for violating the law include up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000. S.B. 184 would force parents of transgender minors, medical professionals, and others to choose between forgoing medically necessary procedures and treatments, or facing criminal prosecution.

The United States’ complaint alleges that S.B. 184 violates the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating on the basis of sex and transgender status.

LGBTQ legal rights advocates SPLC, GLAD, NCLR, and HRC, joined by co-counsel King & Spalding LLP and Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC, had previously filed a legal challenge in federal district court against Alabama SB 184.

Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the legal rights advocacy groups who had sued Alabama told the Blade late Friday night:

“We are thrilled by this outcome, which will provide enormous relief to transgender children and their families. As the court recognizes, this is well established medical care that has been endorsed by 22 major medical associations. Thanks to this decision, kids in Alabama can now continue to receive this lifesaving care, and their doctors cannot be prosecuted simply for doing their jobs. This is a huge victory for compassion and common sense and a much needed antidote to the tidal wave of hostile legislation targeting these youth.”

In addition to the U.S. Justice Department,  the doctors challenging SB 184 in Ladinsky v. Ivey are Dr. Morissa J. Ladinsky and Dr. Hussein D. Abdul-Latif, both providers at the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and members of the medical staff at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and the teaching staff at UAB School of Medicine. Dr. Ladinsky and Dr. Abdul-Latif have long-term expertise in caring for transgender children of Alabama families. Under SB 184, they both face criminal penalties including up to 10 years in prison if they continue to provide that support to their patients.

The Alabama family plaintiffs are proceeding anonymously to protect their children. They include Robert Roe, and his 13-year-old transgender daughter Mary, of Jefferson County; and Jane Doe and her 17-year-old-transgender son John, of Shelby County. These families have deep ties to Alabama. If SB 184 is allowed to go into effect both families will be forced to choose between leaving the state, breaking the law, or facing devastating consequences to their children’s health.

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Utah

Suspect named in murder of lesbian newlyweds had committed suicide

The suspect named by the Sheriff’s Office was a co-worker of one of the victims at the McDonald’s in Moab, Adam Pinkusiewicz

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Kylen Carrol Schulte, 24, and Crystal Michelle Turner, 38, also known as Crystal Beck (Facebook)

MOAB, Ut. – The Grand County, Utah Sheriff’s Office released a statement that a suspect was identified in the double homicide last August of a newlywed lesbian couple Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Beck Turner, 38. The suspect named by the Sheriff’s Office was a co-worker of one of the victims at the local McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Moab, Adam Pinkusiewicz, 45.

The women’s bodies were discovered August 18, 2021 at their campsite in the South Mesa area of the La Sal Loop Road in Grand County located less than 50 miles from the Colorado-Utah state line.

Grand County Sheriff Steven White said that he had asked for the assistance of agents from the Salt Lake City field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with law enforcement agents from the Utah State Bureau of Investigation, as the investigation into the shooting deaths of the women.

Investigators with the Grand County Sheriff’s office say that Pinkusiewicz allegedly told an unidentified source that he “killed two women in Utah and provided specific details that were known only to investigators.” According to the Sheriff’s office he had been camping at the same time as the two women and then left Utah shortly after the bodies were found. He later committed suicide although details are not being released due to an active ongoing investigation.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

First woman to lead a branch of the military confirmed by Senate

While women have served as service branch secretaries- Fagan would be the first servicewoman to serve as the leader of a military branch

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Vice Adm. Linda L. Fagan is promoted to the rank of admiral during a ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters, June 18, 2021. Fagan is the Coast Guard’s first woman to serve as a four-star admiral. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ltjg. Pamela Manns).

WASHINGTON – The Senate has confirmed Admiral Linda L. Fagan as the 27th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard. The current Commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz is set to retire at the end of this month. President Joe Biden nominated Adm. Linda Fagan to lead the service, a military branch that operates within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in peacetime this past month.

Fagan, promoted to the rank of four-star Admiral in June of 2021, is the Coast Guard’s first woman to serve as a four-star flag officer and currently serves as the service’s Vice-Commandant.

Task & Purpose magazine noted that while women have served as service branch secretaries — Christine Wormuth is the current Secretary of the Army — Fagan would be the first servicewoman to serve as the leader of a military branch. 

In a statement issued Thursday,  President Biden congratulated her.

“It is with deep pride that I congratulate Admiral Linda L. Fagan on her confirmation by the Senate as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Admiral Fagan is the Coast Guard’s first woman to hold the rank of four-star admiral. Today, she again makes history not only as the first woman to lead the Coast Guard—but also as the first woman Service Chief of any U.S. military service. Admiral Fagan’s leadership, experience, and integrity are second to none, and I know she will advance the Coast Guard’s mission to ensure our nation’s maritime safety and security. 

My administration is committed to seeing more qualified women in senior leadership and command roles; making sure women can succeed and thrive throughout their military careers. Today, Admiral Fagan’s confirmation as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard signals to women and girls across our nation they have a place in protecting their country at the highest level.”

The admiral is a1985 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut and over the course of career spanning 36 years she has served on seven continents, the Coast Guard’s New York Sector, Commander First Coast Guard District in Boston, Coast Guard Defense Force West, Coast Guard Pacific Area, as well as stints as the service’s headquarters in Washington D.C. apart from her post as Vice-Commandant and duty at sea aboard the only heavy icebreaker in the Coast Guard’s inventory, the USCG Cutter Polar Star.

Task & Purpose also reported;

It wouldn’t be the first milestone for Fagan to achieve in the Coast Guard. When she was promoted to vice commandant in 2021, she became the first-ever four-star admiral in the branch. In an interview with “CBS This Morning” that year, she described nearly being pulled from her first sea deployment, as the ship’s executive officer was hesitant to have her aboard as the only woman in the crew. 

She also noted her commitment to helping the Coast Guard continue to recruit and retain women, including her own daughter, in its ranks. “We’ve made a lot of progress in the junior ranks, we need to keep making progress,” she said.

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