Almost three years ago to the day in July 2017, President Donald Trump tweeted that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” striking panic for advocates of trans rights across the country. But President Trump made good on this threat, and worked to make the trans military ban a reality. Now, however, 116 House Democrats are calling for the Trump Administration to end the ban in light of new Supreme Court protections around gender.
On Wednesday, over one hundred Democrats led by Suzan DelBene signed a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr, demanding that the Pentagon change the discriminatory transgender policy. In it, they ask for an "immediate" reversal of the policy as it's an attack on trans rights.
“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. “This policy is an attack on transgender service members who are risking their lives to serve our country, and it should be reversed immediately.”
This push from Democrats comes after the early June Supreme Court win for LGBTQ+ rights. In a landmark 6-3 ruling in the Bostock v. Clayton County case, the Supreme Court officially decided that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids employment discrimination on the basis of "sex," applies to LGBTQ+ people, too. Although previous rulings state that the military is exempt from Title VII, the decision has given those who oppose the trans military ban grounds to push for change. And while the Pentagon has argued it’s a policy and not a ban, transgender people and allies have countered that it’s similar to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that stopped LGBTQ+ service members from being open about their sexuality for fear of retaliation.
The military ban has weighed heavy on the transgender community for years as the Trump Administration sought to make it a reality, but the trans ban didn’t officially go into effect until April 12, 2019. Since it was passed, the policy has prohibited openly transgender people from enlisting in the military, with all active duty military service members who are openly transgender required to discharge.
In 2018, during the ongoing process of making the policy a reality, the lawyer behind the Bostock win, Chase Strangio, tweeted about the implications of the ban beyond the military. “For me, this is about so much more than the military. This memorandum and the #TransMilitaryBan are part of a concerted effort at all levels of our government to deny and erase trans existence. The consequences are deadly and far-reaching,” he said.
There are currently four lawsuits that are challenging the anti-trans policy. In the letter, Democrats stated that the recent Supreme Court win could “provide significant weight” to the cases.