A step backwards for the US
There’s so much drama in US politics at the moment, it can be difficult to keep up with all the different stories, controversies, and points of view.
From an LGBTQ perspective, one of the most troubling narratives to emerge from the Trump Administration is their focus on Trans people serving in the US military.
This week, we’ve seen the latest development in the government’s move against Trans people – the US Supreme Court has confirmed that the government can go ahead and implement a ban on Trans people serving in the US military.
How did we get here?
Trans people began to be explicitly excluded from the US military from the 1960 – mental health grounds were used to exclude or discharge anyone who presented with ‘gender issues’.
This exclusion of trans people was tested in court a number of times during the 1980s, specifically around the provision of medical care for existing service personnel.
The 2011 repeal of the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy – which made it possible for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to openly serve in the US military – did not include Trans people. Trans people remained excluded from service.
Things began to change in 2015, and in 2016 it became official policy that existing military personnel would face no negative consequences if they disclosed that they were trans. This was extended further on 1 January 2018 when enlisting personnel – new recruits – could disclose that they were trans and would be welcomed into the US military.
The intervention by President Trump
Communicating via his official Twitter account, on 26 July 2017, President Trump declared a ban on Trans people from serving in the US military. This formalised by a Presidential Memorandum that was signed on 25 August 2017.
The announcement of the ban by President Trump appeared to be a response to pressure from conservative Republicans – led by Vicky Hartzler, who is the Congressional representative for a district in Missouri.
The US military appeared to be taken by surprise by the announcement by President Trump, although in his announcement the President stated that he had consulted with his “generals and military experts”.
Taking the fight to the courts
Immediately following the memorandum from President Trump, a number of legal actions were initiated – these successfully resulted in Federal Court injunctions prevent the President’s memorandum from taking effect.
However, on 22 January 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favour of the Trump administration – clearing the way for the ban to be enforced. The court didn’t hear arguments in the case and didn’t provide its own explanation of its decision.
What happens next
The US Defense Department has not set out any detail as to how the ban would be implemented.
At this point, the position for existing military personnel who are Trans is very uncertain.
The determination by the Trump Administration to enforce this ban on Trans people in the military sends a worrying signal to the entire LGBTQ community. The progress that we thought that we had made in relation to equality is not certain and can be eroded.