Trump faces head wind on transgender ban

Maine was not the only place buffeted by strong winds this week.

In Washington, the Trump administration was blown away by the first indictments and guilty plea from the ongoing Mueller investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and a federal court issues a strongly worded rebuke to another one of the administration’s half-baked and hurtful policies.

In Maine, our attention was rightly focused on a terrible storm that knocked power out to hundreds of thousands of people, canceled school and caused untold amounts of damage.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, reportedly frustrated, isolated and angry, could only watch as his former campaign manager and his colleague were indicted and a plea agreement with a foreign policy advisor became public.

Sens. Susan Collins and John McCain. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

On the same day, a federal judge blocked Trump’s attack on transgender people serving in the military. The judge said that Trump’s order was likely unconstitutional and that the military’s policy to allow transgender people to serve should continue.

“There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effective on the military at all. In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects,” wrote Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.

The judge rebuked the administration and said that its effort to ban transgender people from military service is not supported by the facts and, instead, bears the hallmarks of a policy based on discrimination and a “general disapproval of transgender people.”

Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which brought the suit, told Buzzfeed that the judge’s order was a “complete victory.”

Trump’s intent with the ban was clear from the beginning. He was trying to use transgender service members as a political wedge to divide our country even further and to alienate and belittle a minority group in an effort to fire up his base.

Don’t take my word for it. That’s what one administration source bragged to Axios at the time: “This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue,” the official said. “How will the blue-collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?” 

When someone tells you that their despicable, bigoted policy is about trying to win elections, it’s a good idea to believe them.

With Trump, it seems his penchant for hurting others has no limits, even when his crass decisions threaten military readiness, which this ban would have done.

But what Trump didn’t foresee in his efforts to use transgender people as a political prop was the immediate and strong reaction from across the political spectrum, including stalwart Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch, and mavericks like Sens. John McCain and Susan Collins.

Collins, working with Democratic and Republican colleagues, introduced legislation to make sure that transgender people can continue to serve openly.

“If individuals are willing to put on the uniform of our country, be deployed in war zones and risk their lives for our freedoms, then we should be expressing our gratitude to them, not trying to exclude them from military service,” Collins said in a September statement.

Hatch called the policy out as discrimination from the beginning, “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone. Transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.” 

McCain was also strong, saying it would be “a step in the wrong direction to force currently serving transgender individuals to leave the military solely on the basis of their gender identity rather than medical and readiness standards that should always be at the heart of Department of Defense personnel policy.”

As Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her order, the president’s order is causing members of our military “ongoing harms and will cause them further harms in the near future” unless it is blocked.

Veterans Day is coming up at the end of next week. It’s a time in our country that we set aside to pay our respects to all the people who have served in the armed forces, to recognize their bravery and their sacrifice in defense of our values.

It’s fitting that as Veterans Day approaches we are reminded that all members of the military deserve our thanks and our gratitude.

And that anyone who is ready, willing and able to wear the uniform of the United States of America should be allowed to serve, no matter the political games of the president or the bigotry he hopes to exploit.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at dfarmer14@hotmail.com.