July 26, 2017 at 3:29 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Members of Congress criticize ‘cruel’ transgender military ban
transgender military ban, gay news, Washington Blade

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on July 26, 2017, sharply criticized President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the U.S. military. She is among the members of Congress who spoke outside the U.S. Capitol after Trump made the announcement in a series of tweet. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than two dozen members of Congress on Wednesday gathered outside the U.S. Capitol to criticize President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the military.

“It is a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who have stepped forward to serve and defend our country,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), noting Trump announced the policy on the 69th anniversary of President Truman’s executive order that desegregated the U.S. military.

“President Trump has chosen this day to commit an act of cowardice,” added Pelosi.

California Congresswoman Barbara Lee described the ban as a “dangerous and unpatriotic decision.”

“Trans servicemembers are not a disruption,” she said. “They are brave individuals serving our country with courage and conviction which is more than I can say quite frankly about this commander-in-chief.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, III, (D-Mass.) made a similar point.

“The president dared to question the patriotism of our military and in doing so he questioned our greatest strength, it’s greatness and it’s goodness,” he said at the beginning of the press conference, referring specifically to trans servicemembers. “He attacked their humanity and their basic human rights.”

“You deserve better than your president,” added Kennedy. “Your country and your government owe you for what you do.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spoke along with gay U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) Virginia Congressman Don McEachin, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) are among the other members of Congress who attended the press conference alongside Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling and other advocates.

“The 13,000 to 15,000 servicemembers who are transgender are Americans,” said Keisling. “They are proud Americans who are serving their country.”

Republican lawmakers criticize Trump over ban

Maloney during the press conference noted the Republican-controlled House of Representatives earlier this month rejected U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)’s proposed amendment that would have banned the Pentagon from funding sex-reassignment surgery and other transition-related care for trans servicemembers.

“Today a president who never served was attacking thousands of heroes who did,” said Maloney. “With a single tweet the president has left thousands of our heroes on the battlefield of discrimination.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on July 26, 2017, criticizes President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the U.S. military.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and other Republicans who criticized Trump’s announcement. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican with a trans son who represents portions of Miami-Dade County, on Twitter wrote “no American, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be prohibited from honor + privilege of serving our nation.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in a statement said Trump “has created a problem where none existed.”

“Serving in our military should be about the safety of our nation not excluding those who are able and willing to serve,” said Cardin. “The thousands of transgender Americans currently serving in our military are patriots. And they deserve better than this from their commander-in-chief.”

Other elected officials and candidates from across the country also criticized Trump.

“It is shameful and un-American to turn away individuals who are willing to put their lives on the line for a country they love, solely based on their gender identity,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Danica Roem, a trans woman who is challenging Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) in a statement noted Marine Corps Base Quantico is in Prince William County. She also said Trump “took a page out of” her opponent’s “discriminatory handbook and banned active, reserved and prospective soldiers, airmen, sailors, guardsmen, Marines and special forces members who are transgender from serving their country in uniform when the president himself declined to do so.”

“It is nothing short of hypocrisy for someone unfit to serve honorably in the presidency to tell honorable, hardworking, patriotic Americans who answered their country’s call to service that they are unfit to serve because of who they are,” added Roem.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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