9/1/2017 3:37:00 PM EDITORIAL: Transgender ban unwise, divisive; Proposal doesn't mesh with American values
If President Donald Trump was truly doing what he says he wants to do in healing divisions and uniting the country, he would not be issuing foolish directives essentially aimed at banning transgender individuals from serving in the military.
That Trump would raise such an issue is no surprise. His short time in the presidency has already been marked by numerous instances of poor judgment, intemperate remarks, false claims and directives that have been reasonably questioned as unconstitutional and discriminatory. He is making it difficult for anyone to trust anything he does or says.
The furor erupted in late July when Trump tweeted — his favorite means of communication — that transgender individuals, current or future, would no longer be allowed to serve in any capacity in the military.
News reports indicated Trump’s pronouncement caught the Department of Defense off guard. Military brass have been studying issues related to transgender service personnel, but there was no urgency to the matter.
Then weeks went by before any further statement was made. It finally came last Friday night, while Hurricane Harvey was storming ashore in southeast Texas and the president was pardoning controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. The administration’s directive told the secretaries of defense and homeland security to submit a plan to the president by Feb. 21, 2018, for implementing a ban on transgender individuals in the U.S. military, and how to address transgender people already serving. In the interim, no action was to be taken against transgender individuals currently serving.
The only good news is that Trump’s July tweet was considerably more harsh than the directive issued last Friday. What that means, if anything, is anybody’s guess, given the haphazard manner in which public policy matters are being handled by this administration. But at least Defense Secretary James Mattis has an opportunity to do a careful study and prepare a reasonable response, which we hope attempts to convince the president that there’s a better way to deal with issues related to transgender military personnel than banning them from serving their country.
It is encouraging that opposition to Trump’s efforts to ban transgender people from the military is coming from diverse sectors of the public sphere, including from a number of members of the president’s own party.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said in a statement that “there is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said, “I was one who said that those who are openly gay should not be denied the opportunity to serve our country and I feel the same way about transgender.”
We were especially pleased at the statement from Indiana’s Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young, a former Marine. “My first concern is always military preparedness,” Young said. “I’ve yet to see any evidence that shows our preparedness is inhibited by transgender troops.”
American values are rooted in freedom, humanity, patriotism, fairness and equal treatment under the law. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity should never be tolerated in society or in any of our public institutions. We hope good judgment prevails. The divisiveness being peddled by this president must be rejected.