By J. D. Heyes
When former President Obama and a Democrat-controlled CongressÂ repealed the 1990â€™s Clinton-era â€œDonâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tellâ€ policy, enabling gays and lesbians to serve in the U.S. military by forbidding recruiters from inquiring about sexual orientation, the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard carried out the policy, no questions asked.
Then, during the final year of his presidency â€” when heÂ wasnâ€™t overseeing the â€œSpygateâ€ operationÂ â€” Obama signed an executive orderÂ lifting a military ban on transgender troops, the service branch commanders did the same thing: They received their orders from the commander-in-chief and carried them out.
Without questionÂ there were more than a few flag officersÂ (one-star and above) who werenâ€™t at all happy with the Democratsâ€™ and Obamaâ€™s decisions â€” not because they are homophobes and bigots but because as professional military members, they were well aware of the threats to good order and discipline aberrant lifestyles can and do cause.
But they carried out their orders nonetheless.Â
Now, however, National Guard flag-level officers in five states believe that because they donâ€™t like or agree with the current commander-in-chief, Donald J. Trump, somehow they are no longer bound to follow orders and policy when it comes toÂ hisÂ policy directives and decisions.
You may recall that shortly after taking office, POTUS Trump in 2017 announced, in a series of tweets, that he planned to reverse Obamaâ€™s executive order. At the time, he claimed that the Pentagon (and by default, American taxpayers who fund the Pentagon) could not â€œbe burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [troops] would entail.â€
The costs aside, it is the disruption to good order and discipline â€”Â requirementsÂ for military cohesion and effectiveness â€” that most concerned POTUS, based on advice he likely received from defense advisers.
Soon after the president implemented his policy via executive order (which was the same way Obama implementedÂ hisÂ order), it was, of course, challenged in federal courts as â€˜discriminatory.â€™
Well, that argument might hold water if service in the military were aÂ right. Itâ€™s not; itâ€™s a privilege. Besides, due to one or more physical, mental, orÂ legalÂ conditions, not every American can serve or is permitted to serve.Â
The president has not issued an illegal order
The Supreme Court recognized that reality and as such ruled in January to overturn a lower courtâ€™s injunction blocking the policy from taking effect. Under the rule, transgender troops currently serving can remain but anyone who has been diagnosed with â€œgender dysphoriaâ€ no longer qualifies to serve.
Thatâ€™s exactly the right balance argued Thomas Spoehr, a retired Army lieutenant general, and director of the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation.Â He wrote:
The Pentagonâ€™s transgender policy is no different from its treatment of hundreds of other medically disqualifying conditions such as bipolar disorder, asthma, or diabetes. These qualifications exist for two reasonsâ€”to ensure individuals are able to perform at the level expected, and to prevent harm to higher risk individuals.
And yet, National Guard commanders in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico â€” all Democrat strongholds â€” say they are going to seek ways around the ban, according to theÂ New York Daily News. (Related:Â Survey: Fewer than 4 in 10 military members, vets support trans troops.)
Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, the assistant Adjutant General for California, brushed off the rule saying it is â€œthe least of our concerns.â€
â€œAnybody who is willing and able to serve state [and] nation should have the opportunity to serve. Itâ€™s unconscionable in my mind that we would fundamentally discriminate against a certain class of people based on their gender identity,â€ he said,Â The HillÂ added.
Beevers added that â€œwe intend to exercise every available avenue inside the policy and out, to ensure transgendered people who want to serve the California National Guard are afforded the opportunity to serve.â€
â€œWe should be making sure that the Department of Defense and other types of services to both state and nation should be willing to take whomever is willing to serve. So itâ€™s a bit frightening where weâ€™re at today,â€ he continued. â€œHowever, weâ€™re compelled as military officers to follow the rules of the folks that are elected and appointed above us and weâ€™ll continue to do that.â€
â€œAs long as youâ€™re willing to fight you can serve in our minds. Your gender identity is the least of our concerns,â€ Beevers said. â€œWeâ€™re more worried about your ability to fight and win our nationâ€™s wars and protect the homeland and protect California from the effects of wildfires and climate change and earthquakes and everything else here that happens in California. Thatâ€™s our concern.â€
â€œWe are not going to discharge any transgender individual from serving in our state National Guard, nor would this state ever discriminate against someone based on their gender identity,â€ noted Tripp Stelnicki, the communications director for New Mexicoâ€™s governor.
â€œThe State of Nevada does not discriminate against anyone, including and especially service members, based on gender identity or expression,â€ Helen Kalla, communications director for Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, told The Daily Beast. â€œGovernor Sisolak believes the only criteria to serve in the Nevada National Guard is oneâ€™s readiness to serve.â€
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown claimed sheâ€™d â€œuse every option available to ensure that every eligible Oregonian, regardless of gender identity, can serve their state and country.â€ She noted further that she is â€œappalled that the Supreme Court is delivering an intentional blow to civil rights by supporting a push from the Trump Administration to bar transgender people from serving in the military.â€
Washington State also said publicly that it will resist the ban. A spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee Â (D) told The Daily Beast that his office â€œstands in solidarity with transgender Americans across the country in opposing this policy and wonâ€™t stop fighting until it is defeated.â€
Mind you, these commanders are supposed to ‘stand in solidarity’ with the Constitution, which places the president at the head of the military food chain — not any other military member or sub-group of military members.
Also, the current policy does notÂ call for removal; it forbids new transgenders from joining under most circumstances.
Nevertheless, the defiance is remarkable as well as unprecedented and could lead to a national security crisis if these states attempt to defy POTUS Trump if or when he attempts to call up their Guard units for federal service.
A version of this story first appeared at NewsTarget.