Civil rights commission slams Trump transgender military ban

By Eric DuVall   |   Updated Aug. 18, 2017 at 5:10 PM
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Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a statement Friday condemning President Donald Trump's announcement he intends to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.

A majority of the commission, which is bipartisan and operates independent of the executive branch, voted to oppose Trump's stance, which he announced on Twitter, but has yet to take effect.

"Thousands of transgender troops currently serve in the U.S. military and thousands more have served and given their lives for the country throughout our history," the commission said in a statement. "These military men and women honor our country and defend all its citizens with their service."

Commission Chairwoman Catherine Lhamon said discriminating against transgender individuals would violate the Constitution's "equal protection" clause and would constitute discrimination.

"Animus has no place in any aspect of American life. All Americans deserve our government's respect and protection, not affirmative harm from the government itself. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights calls on the United States to satisfy the civil rights protections that are the responsibility and obligation of the federal government."

Trump announced the transgender military ban in a series of tweets last month. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and civilian Pentagon leaders responded, saying the tweets themselves do not constitute a presidential executive order and would have no immediate effect on the military's policy on transgender service members. The Pentagon is in the process of completing a top-to-bottom review of its policies to recommend policies governing the treatment of existing transgender military members. Under former President Barack Obama, the military reversed its 90s-era "don't ask, don't tell" policy that forced gays and lesbians to keep their sexual orientation a secret or risk dishonorable discharge.

No timetable has been given for when a report will be released about the Pentagon's transgender policy review. The White House has not said whether Trump intends to wait for it to be completed prior to taking official action banning transgender people from military service.

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