By J. D. Heyes
When former President Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress repealed the 1990’s Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, enabling gays and lesbians to serve in the U.S. military by forbidding recruiters from inquiring about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 — when he wasn’t overseeing the “Spygate” operation — Obama signed an executive order 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 question there were more than a few flag officers (one-star and above) who weren’t at all happy with the Democrats’ and Obama’s decisions — 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.
Now, however, National Guard flag-level officers in five states believe that because they don’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 to his 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 Obama’s executive order. At the time, he claimed that the Pentagon (and by default, American taxpayers who fund the Pentagon) could not “be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [troops] would entail.”
The costs aside, it is the disruption to good order and discipline — requirements for military cohesion and effectiveness — 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 implemented his order), it was, of course, challenged in federal courts as ‘discriminatory.’
Well, that argument might hold water if service in the military were a right. It’s not; it’s a privilege. Besides, due to one or more physical, mental, or legal conditions, not every American can serve or is permitted to serve.
The president has not issued an illegal order
The Supreme Court recognized that reality and as such ruled in January to overturn a lower court’s injunction blocking the policy from taking effect. Under the rule, transgender troops currently serving can remain but anyone who has been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” no longer qualifies to serve.
That’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. He wrote:
The Pentagon’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 reasons—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 — all Democrat strongholds — say they are going to seek ways around the ban, according to the New York Daily News. (Related: 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 “the least of our concerns.”
“Anybody who is willing and able to serve state [and] nation should have the opportunity to serve. It’s unconscionable in my mind that we would fundamentally discriminate against a certain class of people based on their gender identity,” he said, The Hill added.
Beevers added that “we 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.”
“We 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 it’s a bit frightening where we’re at today,” he continued. “However, we’re compelled as military officers to follow the rules of the folks that are elected and appointed above us and we’ll continue to do that.”
“As long as you’re willing to fight you can serve in our minds. Your gender identity is the least of our concerns,” Beevers said. “We’re more worried about your ability to fight and win our nation’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. That’s our concern.”
“We 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,” noted Tripp Stelnicki, the communications director for New Mexico’s governor.
“The State of Nevada does not discriminate against anyone, including and especially service members, based on gender identity or expression,” Helen Kalla, communications director for Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, told The Daily Beast. “Governor Sisolak believes the only criteria to serve in the Nevada National Guard is one’s readiness to serve.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown claimed she’d “use every option available to ensure that every eligible Oregonian, regardless of gender identity, can serve their state and country.” She noted further that she is “appalled 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.”
Washington State also said publicly that it will resist the ban. A spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee (D) told The Daily Beast that his office “stands in solidarity with transgender Americans across the country in opposing this policy and won’t stop fighting until it is defeated.”
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 not 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.