House Dems: Trump's Trans Military Ban 'Unconstitutional On Its Face'

BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE

A group of 53 House Democrats is warning the Pentagon that following through with policy to implement President Trump's transgender military ban would be "unconstitutional on its face."

In a letter dated Aug. 4, Democrats on the House Armed Services and Judiciary Committees say prohibiting transgender people in the U.S. armed forces -- "in any capacity" as Trump declared -- won't hold up under scrutiny before the courts.

"It is abundantly clear that any effort by President Trump to ban military service by transgender individuals would not only constitute poor policy, but would be unconstitutional on its face," the letter says.

The letter was led by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Among the reasons cited in the letter for why the transgender military ban would be unconstitutional is because it "categorically excludes an entire group of people from military service on the basis of a characteristic that has no relevance to their capacity to serve."

The letter also deems the proposed policy unconstitutional because it's derived from "a series of arbitrary and capriciously issued tweets," appears to be "based on a raw political calculation" and was made without consultation of congressional leaders.

Further, the letter asserts concerns about the cost of transition-related care, such as hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, are bogus because it accounts for "less than 1/10 of 1% of the military's annual budget."

"We believe any serious or credible review of the law and the facts in the present case make it clear that the President's proposed ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces will weaken, not strengthen our military, and is blatantly unconstitutional," the letter says.

Echoing objections in a similar letter signed by 45 U.S. senators, House Democrats urge Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford to resist Trump on the transgender military ban, strongly suggesting they should defy the president on the issue.

"As the respected leaders of our brave armed service members, you have no obligation to implement a hastily considered tweet designed to serve as a 'wedge' political issue; but rather you should honor your own independent duty to support and defend the Constitution of the United States," the letter says.

Last week, Trump announced via Twitter the U.S. military "will not accept or allow" transgender people to serve "in any capacity," upending a policy change in the Obama administration allowing them to come out in the armed forces without of discharge.

But at this time, the Pentagon has yet implement to reverse the change and bar transgender people from military service. It remains if to be seen if any new policy will allow transgender people who currently in the armed forces to continue their service.

Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, a Pentagon spokesperson, said he had no updates in response to the letter from House Democrats.

"DOD is awaiting formal guidance from the White House as a follow-up to the Commander-in-Chief's announcement on military service by transgender personnel," Haverstick said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political and White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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