Who led the original push for the now-repealed transgender military ban? Suspects include a Congressman, a Vice President, the head of a hate group, and the wife of a Supreme Court justice.
It was July 26, 2017. Three and a half years ago, almost to the day, when President Donald Trump shocked the nation with a series of tweets that seemed to have come out of nowhere.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump’s tweets read. “Thank you.”
The Commander in Chief had just placed a total ban on transgender service members. Just like that, in the blink of an eye.
Literally every word of that statement was a lie.
President Joe Biden just reversed the ban via an executive order.
Trump had not consulted with his generals or military experts. Transgender service members do not carry tremendous medical costs, nor does employing them create disruption. Even the “thank you” seemed false.
Civil rights and LGBTQ organizations sued in federal courts and won, multiple times.
But the U.S. Supreme Court, as it did so many times during his tenure, bowed to Trump and granted him the “right” to ban all transgender military service members.
Only later would Americans learn Trump made the announcement not only for purely political reasons, but at the urging of some of the far right’s and the religious right’s most powerful partisans.
Among them: anti-LGBTQ hate group head Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Less than one year later Trump would elevate him directly into the administration, to serve on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Perkins is now the Chair of that group. Trump announced his trans ban just days after Perkins asked him for it.
Also: Ginni Thomas, the conspiracy theorist and far right lobbyist who happens to be the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She met with Trump in January of 2019, apparently in part to force him to enact the ban he had announced 18 months earlier, which was then tied up in the courts.
And: then-Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), who would later become Trump’s White House chief of staff, reportedly took a “significant role” in pushing for the transgender military ban. (Politico reports today that Meadows, now out of the White House, is so unemployable he is now forced to consider taking a job with the Trump Organization post-presidency.)
According to ThinkProgress, Arkansas megachurch pastor Ronnie Floyd, who also sat on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, along with Perkins, both “had the ear of the president and have used it to advocate against allowing transgender people to serve their country.”
Floyd actually joined other evangelical leaders at the White House two weeks before Trump announced the ban on Twitter last year, where they openly advocated for the president to reverse the Obama administration’s decision to let trans people serve.
There was more to Trump’s out-of-the-blue ban on transgender service personnel.
Perkins, ThinkProgress adds, “personally took credit for lobbying Trump for the ban, and admitted to knowing it was coming even though the military’s leadership did not. Perkins also contributed to a secret working group impaneled by Vice President Pence to overrule any trans-friendly recommendations made by a military study group. Documents show that the official military panel only heard testimony in favor of letting trans people serve, yet the final recommendations somehow called for the opposite.
And then there’s Vice President Mike Pence.
According to Slate in 2018, “a ‘panel of experts’ has been crafting a report, also released on Friday, designed to provide pretextual justification for Trump’s ban. According to multiple sources, Vice President Mike Pence played a leading role in the creation of this report, along with Ryan Anderson, an anti-trans activist, and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ lobbying group.”
“House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico,” Politico reported at the time. “But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.”
They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.
In other words, he didn’t bat an eye, just made up a lie to push his agenda forward. Didn’t even think twice about the tens of thousands of lives that would be affected.
Two years later, he was still lying about the ban.
“They take massive amounts of drugs,” Trump told a UK news outlet about transgender people, which is a lie. “They have to — and, also you’re not allowed to take drugs in the military, and they have to after the operation.”
Those “drugs,” as NBC News reported when Trump made the offensive remarks, are prescription medication, and “the military does not prohibit service members from using prescription drugs — including hormones.”
HRC posted this video at the time:
The total cost of extending medical care to trans service members would make up a fraction of 1% of the total health care budget of the military.— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) June 5, 2019
It's deeply disturbing @realDonaldTrump used his time on foreign soil to peddle lies about the brave trans people serving in uniform. pic.twitter.com/ryY2xZRB5v
Written by David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement. Top Photo: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr