Election 2024

Mike Pence says he’ll ban transgender people from the military if he wins

Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore

Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence said that if he wins the White House he would ban transgender people from the military again.

Pence was speaking to reporters in Nevada – an early primary state – when he said that it “makes no sense” to let transgender people serve in the military.

“Look, we have people of every background, of every race and creed and color and persuasion in the military today,” he said. “But having transgender personnel, I believe, erodes unit cohesion in a very unique way.”

Donald Trump banned out transgender people from serving in the military via tweet in 2017, several months after entering the White House, one of the many attacks from his administration on the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Pence himself has a long history of fighting against the rights of LGBTQ+ people, going back to his first successful congressional campaign when he promised to support redirecting HIV/AIDS funding to conversion therapy. In 2018, as Trump’s transgender military ban was being revised, Pence was rumored to be its chief architect; several sources told Slate at the time that he “played a leading role in the creation of this report,” a report written with help from anti-transgender hate groups to justify the policy in a way that courts may approve of it. Another source told Think Progress that the report was a product of a “working group” led by Pence in order to reach different conclusions about the effects of allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military than the Pentagon had reached prior to that.

Shortly after President Joe Biden took office in 2021, his administration lifted the transgender military ban, a move that Pence criticized in Nevada this past weekend.

“I believe it affects recruitment,” he said, citing no evidence. “I believe all this politically correct nonsense that’s going on at the Pentagon is affecting recruitment in the United States military. We’ve got to get our military back to focusing on being the best trained and the best-prepared military in the world.”

He was parroting a popular conservative talking point that the military has become “woke” since Biden became president, even though many policies cited as proof of military wokeness – like allowing gay and bisexual people to serve in the military – are at least a decade old. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has similarly claimed that people are refusing to join the military because of said wokeness. When confronted with statistics showing that he was incorrect, DeSantis said that “not everyone really knows what wokeness is.”

The Des Moines Register notes that Pence has yet to secure a spot at the first Republican debate, which requires candidates to have gotten contributions from at least 40,000 donors and at least 1% support in three early state or national polls.

“We’re closing in on it, and I’m confident we’ll be in the debate,” Pence told reporters. “I think we’re maybe a couple weeks away yet, based on the pace of things coming in.”

Pence is currently getting 4.3 percent of the vote among Republican primary voters according to Real Clear Politics‘ average of polls, putting him in fourth place behind Trump (54.0%), DeSantis (18.3%), and hedge fund investor Vivek Ramaswamy (4.9%).

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