In a statement released Friday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights condemned President Donald Trump’s announcement of a ban on transgender soldiers in the U.S. military.
“The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, by majority vote, strongly urges the president to reconsider his statements expressed on July 26, 2017, that ‘the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,’” the statement said, referencing Trump’s tweets announcing the ban. “The Commission urges this administration to recommit to the full protection of civil rights for all persons in our country.”
Without warning, Trump tweeted in July that he would no longer allow transgender soldiers to serve in the military, dubiously citing the “tremendous” economic burden associated with the costs of supporting their medical needs.
“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,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender[s] in the military would entail. Thank you.”
Despite Trump’s tweets, the ban has yet to be enforced. Still, the very prospect of a ban on transgender military members — a reversal of an Obama-era policy allowing their service — drew the ire of LGBT veterans, progressive lawmakers and even those in his own party.
Retired Army Sgt. Shane Ortega, the first out transgender soldier to serve in the U.S. military, criticized Trump as a “war-dodger” who has “no connection to reality.”
In August, five unnamed active-duty transgender service members filed a federal lawsuit against Trump over the ban. The suit alleges that the looming possibility of the ban has destroyed “the stability and certainty they had in their careers and benefits, including post-military and retirement benefits that depend on the length of their service.”
Their complaint asks the court to permanently rule any ban on transgender service members unconstitutional.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which beseeched the president to abandon his decision, describes itself as an “independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the president and Congress on civil rights matters.” It was founded in 1957.