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Members of Congress send letter asking DOD to refuse transgender ban

More than 50 Democrats in Congress have signed a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford calling on them to refuse any unconstitutional ban on transgendered troops in the military.

By Stephen Carlson
Members of Congress send letter asking DOD to refuse transgender ban
On Friday, 50 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford asking they not enact a ban of transgender individuals serving in the military. Mattis (R) is pictured leaving a National Security Council meeting on July 20 with President Donald Trump (C) and Vice President Mike Pence. Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Department of Defense

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- More than 50 Democrats in Congress have signed a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford calling on them to refuse any unconstitutional ban on transgendered troops in the military.

The letter is a response to President Donald Trump's tweets on July 26 that transgendered troops would not be permitted to serve in the military, though no official policy has been issued, according to the Department of Defense.

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"The Department of Defense is awaiting formal guidance from the White House as a follow-up to the commander-in-chief's announcement on military service by transgender personnel," chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement July 27.

"We will provide detailed guidance to the department in the near future for how this policy change will be implemented"

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Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Friday that discussions on the matter are ongoing with the White House, but no official policy has been made.

"We will await formal direction and once we get that we would provide implementing guidance and implement accordingly. But that's not happened yet," Davis said.

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The letter was led by the ranking members of the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees, Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. John Conyers, who also released a statement urging Mattis and Dunford to ignore any directives leading to a ban.

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"President Trump's recent Twitter announcement banning military service by transgender individuals is not only bad policy, it is unconstitutional," the statement said.

"It defies common sense to deny the military these service members' 'mission-critical' skills. No American who is willing and able should be denied the honor and responsibilities that come with serving in our Armed Forces solely on the basis of their status as the member of a protected group."

The letter argued that any ban would be unconstitutional and would degrade military readiness due to loss of personnel with vital skills. It accused the president of exploiting a wedge issue for political gain, as well as decrying policy changes based on a tweet.

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A 2016 RAND Corporation study cited by the letter found that allowing transgendered troops has minimal effect on military readiness and incurs medical costs of less than $10 million a year.

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