US News, Gender & Identity, News

Supreme Court revives military transgender ban, yet policy remains blocked

The revival of the ban would bar as many as 15,000 people from serving.

On January 22nd, the Supreme Court approved the Trump administration’s request to move forward with their ban on military service for transgender officers. This was the first update on the matter since the president had first suggested such a ban almost two years ago.

Back in July of 2017, President Trump made an announcement on Twitter that affected as many as 15,500 members of our military in less than 240 characters. His tweet argued that “our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

He would go onto formalize that ban in August with a Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, and transgender individuals were barred from service. In doing so, the policy aimed to reverse a 2016 decision by the Obama administration that opened the military to transgender service members for the past 30 months.

In a rare show of defiance, the Pentagon spoke out against the policy. Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, aired the organization’s sentiments in an emailed statement. Gleason noted, “as always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity.” She continued, [policy] is not a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that [the Department of Defense] be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”

Soon after, injunctions were put out by Federal District Court judges in California and Washington State.

Now, the Supreme Court has lifted those two injunctions which were the first line of defense against President Trump’s current ban. But there’s another one left.

That’s where Stone V. Trump steps in. Filed on August 28, 2017, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland on behalf of Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, an 11-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, it boasts the longest lifespan of any lawsuit against the ban that came before it. The injunction argues that the new ban “violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and substantive due process by singling out transgender individuals for unequal and discriminatory treatment.”

Trump’s new policy can’t go into effect while the Stone V. Trump injunction still stands.

One of the most important things to note is the social effect of such a policy. The American Civil Liberties Union, in establishing their lawsuits, said the policy was “transphobia masquerading as policy”. Their basis for the claim is found between the lines of Trump’s actual written policy. In Trump’s Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security entitled, “Military service for Transgender Individuals”, he stated his policy would “halt all use of DoD or [Department of Homeland Security] resources to fund sex re-assignment surgical procedures for military personnel.”

The less obvious effect of the ban is the president’s ability to halt the transitioning process for most transgender servicemen and women. It’s because of those benefits that famed whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to receive hormone treatments as part of her transition. With Trump’s new policy being put in place that healthcare provision won’t be in place for much longer.

Not to mention the risk of increased hate crimes towards transgender men and women. In putting forth his policy “based on uninformed speculation, myths and stereotypes, moral disapproval, and a bare desire to harm this already vulnerable group” as put best by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Trump Administration shows that they will not stand by the transgender community.

A sort of “monkey see monkey do” form of governance is probable. If Americans see a transphobic administration, some might become more vocal about their own transphobia. 

The University of California, Berkeley, political scientist Gabriel Lenz notes in his book, Follow the Leader, that voters typically form their views based on elected officials and other people they trust. This notion is echoed in a study on the American Journal of Political Science. Researchers found that when a number of state legislators randomly sent out letters to constituents, the recipients often adopted the opinion of said representative, even when they had disagreed before.

It’s important to understand just how atrocious administration’s minority targeting initiatives are. No matter how different each policy is, they each show the rippling effects a single policy can have.