August 24, 2017 at 6:40 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
No answers from White House on trans ban, ‘religious freedom’ EO
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, gay news, Washington Blade

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Screenshot via CSPAN)

Amid ongoing media reports about the White House plan to bar transgender people from the U.S. military, President Trump’s top spokesperson had no answers Thursday on the status of the proposal.

During her regular news conference, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodged in response to a question about how close the administration is to finalizing the policy and the discretion the Defense Department will have in implementing it.

“When we have an announcement on that, I’ll let you know, and we’ll be sure to answer those questions at that time,” Sanders said.

The Los Angeles Blade reported late Wednesday the guidance would be made final and sent to the Pentagon by the end of this week. At that time, the Defense Department will have six months to implement the plan.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, a draft version of the guidance would give the Pentagon authority to kick out transgender service members based on their “deployability;” bar transgender people entirely from enlisting into the armed forces; and withhold U.S. military payment for transition-related health care, including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.

Sanders also had no comment in response to a question on Trump’s “religious freedom” executive order. Newsmax’s John Gizzi asked whether Trump was aware of complaints from the Becket Fund the Johnson amendment, which bars churches from making political endorsements, and Obamacare’s contraception clause were still being enforced despite the directive’s instructions.

“I’m not sure if he’s aware of the complaints or any specific places where that’s being ignored,” Sanders replied. “So I’d have to look into that, probably talk to our friends at HHS specific to the contraception thing, and get back to you.”

In May, Trump signed a “religious freedom” order that was feared to undercut LGBT rights, but ultimately was basically silent on LGBT issues. However, critics pointed to a provision in the directive enabling U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue “religious freedom” guidance, which they claim will be a precursor to administration enabling anti-LGBT discrimination.

Ian Thompson, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said Sanders’ non-answers during her regular news conference were telling.

“Actions speak far louder than words or, in this case, non-answers from the White House,” Thompson said. “In less than a year, the Trump administration has amassed a staggering anti-LGBT record. I don’t expect that will change for the better. As the administration continues to move forward with its discriminatory agenda, the ACLU won’t hesitate to challenge it, both in the courtroom and in the streets.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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