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Democrats are pushing back on the trans military ban. Will the military defend it?

Democrats are pushing back on the trans military ban. Will the military defend it?
Defense Secretary James Mattis speaking at a Senate committee meeting last year. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Dominique A. Pineiro

Congressional Democrats pushed back on Trump’s transgender military ban this week.

At issue was the Department of Defense report justifying the transgender military ban that was released last month. The report was purportedly written by the Pentagon following a months-long investigation into opening military service to transgender people, but several sources have said that it was a product of Mike Pence and several anti-LGBT activists.

The report did not include findings from organizations like the American Medical Association, which has said that there is no reason to keep transgender people out of the military. Previous studies, like the RAND Institute’s study, also found that there would be few costs to opening enlistment up to transgender people.

In a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis earlier this week, several members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees wrote, “Although you state that the panel received input from civilian medical professionals, the recommendations appear to us to be inconsistent with what we have heard from the civilian medical community.”

The letter was signed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).

But Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday that he stands by the report. “I have submitted to the president what I think is the best military advice,” he said.

He mostly dodged questions about the report, calling the transgender military ban “a highly charged issue from some people’s perspective” and saying that it’s “under litigation.”

Rep. Speier grew frustrated with Mattis’s answers to her questions about medical organizations that rejected the Department of Defense’s report’s findings and held up a picture of Air Force Sergeant Logan Ireland, who is transgender.

“You rolled out this new policy and now you are basically saying ‘I’m not prepared to defend it,'” she said.

“I’m prepared to defend it. But out of respect for the courts, I do not intrude,” Mattis responded.

The process used to justify the transgender military ban has become an issue in court. Several judges have already found that the ban constitutes an act of sex discrimination, which is legal only if the government has an “exceedingly persuasive justification.” If the court believes that the Trump Administration was motivated by bias instead of objective reasoning, then the ban can be struck down.

Mattis was expected to file a report last month in favor of open service for transgender people. The report that was filed, though, was criticized for not citing medical authorities and cherry-picking old studies about transgender people.

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