Alison Darmetko – Anchor Staff
In recent years, many strides being made towards equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community have instead changed direction under our current administration. While some may think of the efforts by the Trump administration to dial back the Title IX protections in schools, the transgender community came to another hurdle on January 22 when the Supreme Court of the United States granted a request by the Trump administration to renew one of its more controversial policies: the transgender military ban.
For those unaware of what this policy entails, on July 26 in 2017, President Trump sent out a series of Tweets stating that transgender individuals would no longer be permitted to serve in the United States military in any capacity. Claiming he spoke with his generals on the subject, President Trump justified his policy citing the costs to the military in providing medical care to assist in gender reassignment surgery as being too great of a burden to the military budget. This was a drastic juxtaposition to a 2016 policy under President Obama allowing transgender citizens to serve openly in the military without needing to lie about their gender identities.
This policy, which was previously blocked by courts on the grounds of discrimination, largely faded from the public eye following President Trump’s constant controversial statements. The policy made its return when the Supreme Court voted five to four, with the court’s five conservative judges in the majority, on January 22 to stay two different injunctions from district courts that were blocking the policy from taking effect while also allowing the policy to temporarily go into effect. While it is important to note that the policy does not technically immediately force soldiers from the military for identifying as transgender, the policy does put those who seek to transition or wish to serve openly after beginning their transition at a risk for being discharged from the military.
While this policy only restricts transgender citizens from serving in the military, the environment that created the policy is something to take note of. President Trump is known for associating with individuals who support very conservative agendas who are not friendly to the political ideals of the LGBTQ community. Vice President Mike Pence is well known for his efforts to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act during his time as governor, a law that has been criticized as an effort to condone discrimination against LGBTQ individuals by permitting private businesses to refuse service to any individuals on the grounds of religious beliefs. The law states “a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion… [unless it] (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” Additionally, with a majority of the current Supreme Court justices being conservative in their political ideals, only time will tell what will follow the transgender military ban.