House Dems Urge DOD, Joint Chiefs Of Staff: Don’t Change Transgender Policy

Alex Brandon/AP
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A group of 50 Democratic U.S. House members sent a letter Friday to the heads of the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff requesting that they not comply with the President’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, and “at a minimum” not make any changes until a policy study has been completed.

“We write to not only express our strong opposition to President Trump’s recent tweets seeking to ban transgender individuals from the military, but to remind you not to comply with any unconstitutional directive which may ultimately be issued,” the letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, read. “We reject the premise that the presence of transgender troops interferes with the morale or combat readiness of our Armed Forces.”

The letter from House members, spearheaded by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), followed an announcement President Donald Trump made via Twitter last week banning transgender individuals from serving in the military in “any capacity.”

The measure reportedly caught the Pentagon and other members of the Trump administration by surprise. Several GOP senators came out against the ban as well.

Dunford sent out a memo shortly after the announcement saying no changes would be made to the military’s transgender policy until the Department of Defense received some guidance from the President.

A majority of Americans are opposed to the ban as well. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 67 percent of registered voters surveyed said transgender individuals should be allowed to serve in the military, while 27 percent said they should not be allowed to serve.

In the letter, House Democrats urged Dunford and Mattis to not make any policy changes, saying the ban is “unconstitutional on its face” for a number of reasons, including the President’s poorly constructed rollout.

“Instead of being grounded in a thoughtful deliberative process, the President’s policy was derived from a series of arbitrary and capriciously issued tweets,” the letter said.

The letter praised the current transgender service member policy developed in conjunction with “the full leadership of the armed services” during the Obama administration and based on data, including a Pentagon-commissioned study that estimated about 2,450 transgender people are among active duty troops.

That RAND Corporation study predicted it would cost the government about $2.9- $4.2 million a year to fund hormone therapy and surgeries.

“Instead of being developed based on any new quantitative data or policy input, the President’s proposal appears to be based on raw political calculation, with a Trump administration official claiming the President’s tweets ‘forces Democrats in the Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, to take ownership of this issue,’” the letter said.

“We believe any serious or credible review of the law and the facts in the present case make it clear that the President’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces will weaken, not strengthen our military, and is blatantly unconstitutional,” members wrote in closing.

Read the letter to Mattis and Dunford below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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