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White House gives Pentagon six months to create new trans military ban policy

UPDATED (8/24): Memo went back to White House Counsel for “adjustments”

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A U.S. Army sergeant flies the American flag from the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over southern Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The pilots and crew chiefs fly American flags to present with certificates to service members as part of aviation tradition. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis)

UPDATE (8/24): According to a White House source, the guidance on the transgender service ban went back to the White House Counsel’s Office for “adjustments” in response to public statements by organizations after the news broke that the 2 ½ page memo was on its way to Defense Sec. Mattis. There has been no word what adjustments were made or if the memo is in or out of the Counsel’s Office. In the meantime, seasoned journalists are asking if the memo even exists since the memo on the Muslim ban was leaked within hours of its announcement. The LA Blade, however, is confident the memo exists because details were leaked that are very similar to information leaked separately to the Wall Street Journal. One other note: under ordinary circumstances, a memo ordering such a significant change in policy must be delivered directly into the hands of the Secretary of Defense—and Mattis is out of the country. So will the White House wait for his return or shoot him an email? The Washington Blade reports that when asked about the memo, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodged the question. “When we have an announcement on that, I’ll let you know, and we’ll be sure to answer those questions at that time,” Sanders said. Stay tuned.

Original story:  White House guidance on the transgender military service ban President Trump ordered via tweet July 26 is headed to the Pentagon, as soon as Thursday afternoon or possibly Friday morning, a senior White House source told the Los Angeles Blade.

The Guidance has been boiled down to a 2½-page memo that directs Defense Sec. Mattis to come up with a policy in six months, stop spending money on transgender-related medical treatment for active duty trans servicemembers and gauges fitness for service based on “deployability”—whether the trans individual can ably serve in a war zone and engage in military exercises or function a ship for months, officials told the Wall Street Journal. 

“‎DoD will provide an update upon receipt of formal guidance,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick told The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson. “The Department continues to focus on our mission of defending our nation and on-going operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect.”

That guidance was also watered down from the complete ban Trump ordered to one that would allow active duty trans service members to continue serving after even Republicans opposed the policy change. The weakened policy requires that recruitment and the accessions policy be halted (they are now), enlistment contracts not be renewed, promotions result in discharges, and transgender-specific healthcare be prohibited.

 

At an Aug. 14 news conference, Mattis indicated support for trans service members, noting the United States Armed Forces is “a widely diverse force. We look at E Pluribus Unum on our coins. Out of many, one. They were simply emphasizing on the battlefield we are one team and that’s the way we stay.”

It has now been widely reported that Mattis quietly intervened to scotch efforts by anti-LGBT Reps. Duncan Hunter and Vicky Hartzler to get a version of the trans ban passed through Congress. Nor did he object when Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the current policy of open service would remain in effect until it is formally replaced or when Navy Secretary Spencer said “any patriot” should be allowed to serve, echoing other commanders supporting their trans service members.

However, Mattis also noted that the military chain of command requires him to follow orders given by the civilian commander-in-chief. “You all elected — the American people elected the commander in chief. I — they didn’t elect me. So the commander in chief in our country and our system of government is elected by the people. He has that authority and responsibility. So that was fully within his responsibility,” Mattis said.

Mattis flagged that he expected the guidance “very soon,” after which “we will study it and come up with what the policy should be.”

It is unclear how long it will take to study the guidance and come up with a policy, considering that the Pentagon is already investigating four serious incidents with the Navy involving numerous deaths—raising questions about military readiness in the forward Asian theatre as North Korea continues saber-rattling. Additionally, Trump is sending roughly 4,000 more troops into the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, while also fighting a war in Iraq, a conflict in Syria and in hotspots like Somalia.

Ignobly, Trump called for unity during his Afghanistan speech as the ban was being prepared. “[All service members] are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust, and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other,” Trump said. “Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.”

The White House senior official source — who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity — said Vice President Mike Pence is the driving force behind the ban. In fact, he has been spearheading the trans ban reinstatement since last May, at the behest of conservative leaders such as Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and scores of retired anti-LGBT military officers.

“[Trump] makes decisions based upon what he believes is right, but more importantly, what he committed to,” Perkins told the Christian Broadcast Network after the tweets. “He’s only doing what he committed he would do.”

Trump’s fear of his evangelical base is more powerful than his promises to the LGBT community, justifying the ban by saying: “It’s been a very difficult situation and I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”

Fact check: an estimated 6,000 trans service members have been serving openly without incident since the original ban was lifted by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in July 2016, after a year of study and deliberation.

News of the ban prompted the California Legislative LGBT Caucus to introduce a Resolution saying California would protect its own trans service members. California is home to more than 190,000 active and reserve service people on three army bases, seven marine bases, 10 navy bases, six air force bases and five reserve and numerous U.S. Coast Guard bases.

“Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military is offensive, misguided, and contrary to our American values,” said Assembly member Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, after introducing Assembly Joint Resolution 22 on Aug. 23. “The thousands of transgender military service members who have put their lives on the line for our country deserve better. The California Legislative LGBT Caucus stands by our transgender service members and will do everything in our power to prevent further discrimination.”

The LGBT Caucus cites a Pentagon-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation that estimated medical care for transgender service members would cost approximately $8 million a year of the Pentagon’s $600 billion budget—“compared to $84 million, which the United States military currently spends on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs,” the Caucus says in a press release.

“As an American, a veteran and a lesbian—I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s recent announcement that transgender people will be banned from military service,” said Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton). “Americans who love their country and feel a call to duty—in the form of military service—should be lifted up for their courage and sacrifice, rather than pushed out!”

“Military rules and regulations allow trans people to serve their country, and even the commander-in-chief cannot change those via Twitter. Thousands of trans service members on the front lines deserve better from their commander-in-chief. Discrimination doesn’t make us safer, but it does exclude those with the desire and talents to serve our country. Their service matters, their lives matters, and the CA LGBT Caucus stands with our trans service-members,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), vice chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus.

Interestingly, at the end of the resolution, the Caucus notes what could prove to be a wrinkle in Trump’s plan. “Resolved, That the Legislature of the State of California calls upon the Governor of California to direct the California National Guard, the California Air National Guard, and the other Armed Forces of the state to take no action that discriminates against transgender service members in enlistment, promotion, or any other aspect of their service, on the basis of their gender identity or expression, unless superseded by federal law, regulation, or formal directive from the United States Department of Defense.”

But what happens if and when transgender members of the state National Guard are called up and federalized? Low’s office says they are looking into that. AJR 22 will be heard on the Assembly floor in the coming weeks.

Next up are the lawsuits. GLAD and the National Center for Lesbian Rights already filed a“Doe v. Trump” lawsuit on Aug. 9 in federal court in D.C., seeking an injunction against Trump’s directive to reinstate a ban. A joint lawsuit from Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, with lots of amicus briefs, will no doubt be coming soon.

It will be interesting to see if the same outrage demonstrated at Trump’s alignment with white supremacists will greet the ban on the patriotic right of transgender Americans to serve their country.

UPDATE:  OutServe-SLDN sent out this angry press release moments after the news became public. They intend to file a lawsuit with Lambda Legal as soon as they see and scrutinize the 2 1/2 page memo:

OutServe-SLDN Condemns White House Purge of Trans Service Members

(WASHINGTON) August 24, 2017– Breaking faith with top generals and admirals, President Trump’s White House will issue guidance to the Department of Defense, per the Wall Street Journal, which would effectively purge anyone found to be transgender from the armed services. This policy would purge thousands of currently serving transgender troops over the coming months and years by denying them reenlistment; threatening to cut off their healthcare; and would make permanent a ban on recruiting transgender troops that was set to expire later this year.

The following can be attributed to OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn:

“The President’s order to remove transgender service members from the United States armed forces is nothing less than a purge. He is implementing this purge based on bigotry, motivated by agents of an ideology that has no concern for the national defense, and in blatant disregard of the experience of career officers who spent more than a year developing and implementing the current policy.

It is inconceivable that a man with a demonstrated incompetence in managing the small staff of the White House should have any credibility when it comes to making sound personnel decisions that will effect a fighting force of more than 1.8 million men and women.

We recognize this purge for what it is – a discriminatory attack on the people who have volunteered their lives for the defense of the country. It is arbitrary and capricious, a callous and questionable exercise of constitutional authority which is beneath the dignity of a Commander-in-Chief.

We condemn the actions of the White House in initiating this purge. We condemn the disregard that the President has shown to transgender men and women who wear the uniform. We condemn the intent of any person who would make it the mission of United States military to discriminate against the very citizens they are charged to defend. And we condemn the indifference of any elected official who does not now stand up for both military personnel and the LGBT community by opposing this purge.

OutServe-SLDN along with Lambda Legal will swiftly be filing a lawsuit in federal court to challenge this action.”

OutServe-SLDN’s legal team will provide any and all advocacy and legal assistance possible to ensure the transgender community is able to openly serve our country in its armed forces. Individuals seeking assistance may contact the legal department directly at 800-538-7418or [email protected]

###

OutServe-SLDN (OS-SLDN) is the largest non-profit, legal services, advocacy and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America’s military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. For more information, visit www.outserve-sldn.org.

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District of Columbia

Gay couple assaulted in D.C. by teens shouting ‘monkeypox faggots’

The men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one receiving stitches for a deep cut

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Photo credit: Washington Metropolitan Police Dept/Facebook

WASHINGTON – Two young men appearing in their late teens shouted the words “monkeypox faggots” at a gay male couple walking along 7th Street, N.W. in the city’s Shaw neighborhood on Sunday, Aug. 7, before punching the two men in the face and head in an incident that D.C. police have called a suspected hate crime.

The gay men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one of the two receiving stitches for a deep cut on his upper lip, according to one of the victims who spoke to the Washington Blade.

The victim, an Alexandria resident who asked that he and his partner, a D.C. resident, not be identified by name, said the attackers were part of a group of four or five young men appearing to be between 17 and 19 years old and two young women accompanying them. He said the group crossed paths with the gay couple around 5:40 p.m. in front of a store on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W., as the couple was walking to a nearby bus stop on Rhode Island Avenue.

The victim who spoke to the Blade said a nearby witness called D.C. police, who arrived within a few minutes as the two attackers and the other young men with them fled the scene. He said although an ambulance arrived on the scene, one of the police officers drove the couple to nearby Howard University Hospital, where they spent about six hours in the emergency room.

The couple had spent part of that 90+ degree day at the city’s Banneker Pool and later stopped at the Kiki gay bar on U Street, N.W. before taking what the victim who spoke to the Blade said was a leisurely walk from Kiki via 7th Street on their way to the bus stop, where they planned to take the bus to his boyfriend’s Northeast D.C. house.

As the couple walked south on 7th Street about a block from their destination on Rhode Island Avenue they crossed paths with the group of teenagers in front of a store that a D.C. police report says was at 1731 7th St., N.W.

“They were about 17 to 19 years old,” the victim who spoke to the Blade said. “And one of them started saying stuff like, hey, look at these monkeypox faggots and some not so nice stuff like that,” he said.

“We turned around to walk away and one of them came up behind me and got my attention and then sucker punched me and then hit me again and then hit my boyfriend in the face,” the victim said. “And another person hit him in the face as well,” he said. “And then someone across the street called the cops. And then the cops came, and they scattered off.”

To the couple’s surprise, the two young women remained on the scene and apologized for the actions by the guys they were with.

“So, I said something like thanks for the apology, but this is the kind of people you hang out with,” the victim recounted. “And one of them said their dad was gay, and they kind of walked away before the cops got there,” he said. “It was nice of them to apologize I guess for the other people.”

The D.C. police report lists the incident as having two offenses, a simple assault against the two men and a misdemeanor destruction of property related to the destruction of a pair of sunglasses worn by one of the two men that were damaged in the assault against him.

The report also lists the incident as a suspected “Sexual orientation – Anti-Gay” hate crime.

As in all incidents of violent crime, D.C. police call on members of the public to contact the police with information about an incident like this to call police at 202-727-9099 or text a tip to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411.

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Federal Government

Biden administration ends ‘Remain In Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers

DHS had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then until the U.S. District Judge lifted his injunction

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas meeting with Honduran Security Minister Sabillon, July 27, 2022 (Photo Credit: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) colloquially referred to as the ‘Remain-in-Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers at the nation’s Southern border has ended.

In a statement issued yesterday, DHS noted;

“We welcome the U.S. District Court’s decision, which follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30th decision, to lift the injunction that required DHS to reimplement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in good faith.

DHS is committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner. Individuals are no longer being newly enrolled into MPP, and individuals currently in MPP in Mexico will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date.  Individuals disenrolled from MPP will continue their removal proceedings in the United States.”

DHS officials had held off lifting the MPP protocols until after the Supreme Court’s ruling and then additionally until U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee in Amarillo, Texas, had lifted his injunction. 

“MPP has endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said as DHS removed the MPP policy.

The DHS statement also noted that the Department will provide additional information in the coming days. “MPP enrollees should follow the directions on their court documents and tear sheets to appear for their scheduled court date as required.”

DHS continues to enforce our nation’s immigration and public health laws, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order as required by court order. Individuals encountered at the Southwest Border who cannot establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed or expelled, the statement added.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Conservative group sues Iowa school district over trans-inclusive policy

The policy covers years 7-12, allowing students to freely communicate with faculty members and school staff about their gender identity

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Linn-Mar High School students attend assembly Spring of 2022 (Photo Credit: Linn-Mar Community School District/Facebook)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. – The Parents Defending Education (PDE), a conservative right-wing nationwide nonprofit membership association, sued an Iowa school district in federal court last week over the district’s gender support plan approved last Spring by the school board.

The Linn-Mar Community School District (LMCSD) policy (504.13-R) covers year 7 through year 12, allowing students to freely communicate with faculty members and school staff about their gender identity. The policy protects those conversations from their parents if they wish.

The policy also states students and staff should identify a student by their chosen name and pronouns, and allow students to participate in activities as their assigned gender.

PDE’s suit alleges  LMCSD’s “parental exclusion policy”  violates violates parent’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. “Nearly a century of Supreme Court precedent makes two things clear: parents have a constitutional liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of their children, and students do not abandon their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. The Linn-Mar Community School District is flouting both of these constitutional guarantees through its recent adoption of Policy 504.13-R”

The suit also claims, “The Policy authorizes children to make fundamentally important decisions concerning their gender identity without any parental involvement and to then hide these decisions from their parents. […] These actions can happen without any knowledge or input from the child’s parents. Instead, these decisions will be made solely by the child and “school administrators and/or school counselors.” And it is not just secrecy through silence. The District will withhold this information even if it is specifically requested by parents.”

“Linn-Mar’s gender policy demonstrates a deep contempt for the constitutional rights of its students and families,” said Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily in a statement. “It has been clearly established by the federal court system over the past 100 years that parents have a right to direct the upbringing of their children, and we are proud to fight on behalf of our members to put a stop to these unconstitutional policies.”

LGBTQ + advocates maintain the LMCSD policy is necessary means ensuring that LGBTQ students can seek help about questions they might have, and also protect them from bullying and harassment.

The lawsuit alleges though that the policy is too broad when it comes to bullying and harassment, and that it violates 1st Amendment protections for those persons who choose to not identify a student by their chosen gender or name.

Since the LMCSD Board passed the policy the community of around 6,000 people has been divided. One parent writing in a Facebook post on the LMCSD page: [Tina Gaby]

“I think every parent at Linn Mar that is uncomfortable with this decision can start with Asking for a separate partition for their child to be able to change in the locker room. Biological males and females have just as much right as transgender kids to feel comfortable”

Another parent, Joseph Stutler, answered: “Tina Gaby Or they could just learn to be decent humans and mind their own business in the facilities.”

The Linn-Mar Community School District did not respond to media requests for comment.

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