Donald Trump

"See You in Court, Mr. President!"

Donald Trump has created quite the spectacle recently with his inhumane views and ignorant comments regarding football and everything else you could possibly think of. However, in addition to the hefty (and completely acceptable, in my opinion) backlash he has received, he still has a few things on his plate that requires much attention – lawsuits. 

In July, Trump followed his usual antics when he took to Twitter to surprise all of America, including his administration, with a threat to ban transgender individuals from the military. A threat he seems pretty certain to push for as he officially signed a memo that bans transgender men and women with hopes of enlisting in the military from fulfilling their dreams of serving their country on Friday, August 25th. However, his unwarranted notion created a quick response on Monday, August 28th as he got slapped with lawsuits from both Lambda Legal and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Lambda Legal, who teamed up with Outserve-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) for their lawsuit, is a national legal nonprofit and the lawsuit from ACLU, a nonpartisan nonprofit, was filed on behalf of an 11-year Navy veteran, Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, alongside several other transgender members of the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy. Both organizations agree in their motions that Trump’s transgender ban singles out the transgender community by subjecting them to “unequal and discriminatory treatment” which is completely unconstitutional. 

These two lawsuits join another that was previously filed in early August by 5 active duty and anonymous “Jane Doe” service members who are all being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) group. Each of the five plaintiffs relied on the 2016 policy initiated by President Obama that lifted the ban on transgender service members when they notified their commanding officers that they were transgender, a decision they feel has caused them to lose the stability and certainty they once had in their careers and benefits, including those that are post-retirement. In addition to directing focus to the constitutional challenges this ban presents, they ask that the court find Trump’s intentions to be a violation of the promises the government has made to members of the military. Although anonymous, the 5 service members include a Coast Guard member who has written a prospective letter of resignation if needed, an Air Force service member of approximately 20 years who has been stationed in Iraq twice and three Army soldiers.

The current memo, which was sent to the Pentagon, not only bars the military from providing funding for gender confirmation surgeries for those currently enlisted, but it also leaves Defense Secretary Jim Mattis responsible for deciding whether to remove transgender servicemen and women who are currently serving - a decision he has not yet to make and a responsibility he is ordered to fulfill by January 1, 2018. 

 

Trump: Continuing to Halt the Progression of the LGBTQ+ Community

Several Americans are stuck in a constant state of heartbreak and confusion after Donald Trump announced on Twitter that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military “in any capacity” because the country cannot be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” in a series of three distasteful tweets. 

This comes as a major upset as just over a year ago, the Obama administration established a policy that allowed transgender individuals to openly serve and get the military’s help paying for gender transition surgery.

“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve to prevent us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”

-       Ashton Carter, Then-Defense Secretary

Yet, to no surprise, this announcement was also made in the middle of the White House’s American Heroes Week.

It’s very apparent that everyone – including the Pentagon – was in the dark about this policy shift despite Trump mentioning speaking with his “team” in his Tweet as Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation when the news hit and was in an immediate rush to buy a return ticket back. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, allies, and those alike have responded in different ways. The Mayor of Austin, TX, Steve Adler, responded to Trump’s threats by welcoming transgender troops in the U.S. military to apply for a job with his city’s police department. Military’s top officer said Trump’s new ban on transgender people serving in the military will not take effect until there are more details on how it would be implemented. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice is arguing that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 which bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, offers no protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This topic cannot be brought up without acknowledging the work, accomplishments, and thoughts of Trump’s recent antics from an incredibly proud and brave Navy veteran, Monica Helms. Helms is a proud transgender woman who served in the Navy from 1970 to 1978 as a submariner. She also deserves the credit for the 1999 creation of the original pink, white, and blue transgender pride flag, and co-founding the Transgender American Veterans Association in 2003. In an interview with Huffington Post, Helms stated that regardless of last Wednesday’s news, she still remains proud to have been a submariner in the Navy. She continued to state that other submariners that she has met over the years are okay with the fact that she served and is now a trans woman because she did the same job they did, but she did confess to feeling like she had to hide of bury parts of herself while she was serving in the military and there was no way that she could come out while still serving in the military. She also took the time to admit to sending over the links to four videos she produced and posted on YouTube about transgender and gender on-conforming veterans throughout American history. Classy move!

I had the opportunity to interview a current E-4 serviceman in the National Guard who agreed with Helms’s comment about the perception of LGBTQ+ people in the military, Darren Floyd. Floyd agreed that the military is a “man’s world” that is perceived to be “rough and tough.” He admitted to disagreeing with the ban, but it wasn’t because he identifies as a gay male – he disagrees because transgender individuals are still human and willing to fight for their country alongside the fact that sexual orientation nor identity should matter. Floyd wholeheartedly believes that there is still much more work to be done for any serviceman, or woman, a part of the LGBTQ+ community to be accepted in any branch of the military as his sexuality still remains unmentioned despite the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” by the Obama administration.

“The military is very macho … I’ve seen the looks and the hard time soldiers who are flamboyant get. It seems like other soldiers always try to find something to say to him.” 

-       Darren Floyd, National Guard

This isn’t the first move the current sitting President has made against the LGBTQ+ community despite many conservatives once stating that he was “the most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever. However, at the current moment, we have to hope that these senseless tweets remain just another mark in Trump’s typical tweeting behavior, but we must also prepare ourselves for the vicious repercussions of this narrow-minded mindset that is prepared to reverse all onward progress of the LGBTQ+ community as we know Trump isn’t alone.