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Protesters demonstrated in front of the White House this week following an announcement by President Trump that transgender service members would be barred from the military. (Photo: Ted Eytan/Flickr/cc)

State AGs Urge Congress to Protect Transgender Service Members from Trump Ban

Letter from 19 attorneys general call the military's transgender policy "a closed issue"

Julia Conley

Attorneys general from 18 states and Washington, D.C. are the latest group to push back against President Donald Trump's proposal to bar transgender Americans from serving in the military.

As the Senate prepares to take up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the attorneys general from states in every region of the continental U.S. sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday, asking it to protect transgender people from discrimination by the military as it drafts the bill.

A letter was also sent to the House Armed Services Committee, though the House passed its version of the bill earlier this week.

The letter was written in response to a plan introduced by Trump via Twitter on Wednesday, in which he wrote that "the United States government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," citing "tremendous costs and disruption."

The attorneys general wrote that the proposal "has no place in our Armed Services. It is an insult to the courageous transgender service members who hold vital roles in our military and continue to make tremendous sacrifices for our country...It is inconsistent with the laws and policies of many States, and with fundamental notions of fairness and equality."

The letter noted that Trump's directive reversed course on "a closed issue." Transgender service members have been allowed to serve openly in the military for the past year, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he would not reverse the transgender policy during his confirmation hearing in January.

As noted in the letter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff also disagreed with Trump's decision, and on Thursday Chairman Joseph Dunford said the Pentagon would not take action to discharge any transgender service members based on the president's tweet.

The attorneys general also pushed back against Trump's claim that allowing transgender Americans to serve creates a financial burden for the military:

Based on the best independent estimates available from the RAND Corporation and the New England Journal of Medicine, the cost of medical care for transgender troops is negligible. Moreover, a Defense Department study concluded that transgender service members do not harm unit cohesion and that allowing transgender troops to fulfill their duty has no effect on military readiness or military budgets.

The RAND Corporation study cited in the letter found "only a 0.13-percent ($8.4 million out of $6.2 billion) increase in health care spending" for transgender troops' medical needs." According to a report by the Military Times, the military spends $84 million per year on medications for erectile dysfunction—10 times the cost of medical care for transgender service members.


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