• Gov. Inslee: Washington state to challenge Trump's transgender military ban

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff

    Updated:

    Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on Monday that state Attorney General Bob Ferguson intends to challenge President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban. 

    “We welcome all members of the National Guard and service they provide and all the talent they provide regardless of their gender or orientation,” Inslee said in a news conference. 

    Ferguson's office sent a news release on Monday afternoon that argued the ban “constitutes undisguised sex and gender identity discrimination." 

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    Why Trump wants a ban?  

    Trump sent a series of tweets in July how the military could not be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that “transgender in the military would entail.” It came as the military faced a deadline for updating its medical standards to accommodate transgender service members.

     

     

    In August, Trump signed a directive ordering a ban on transgender people serving, but it deferred to the Pentagon on how to remove those in uniform. 

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told The New York Times that a panel will analyze the ban and that transgender members will be able to serve pending the results of a study.

    The ban reverses an Obama-era military policy in operation since last year, which allowed transgender service members to serve openly in the military.  

    What's in the motion? 

    In the motion to intervene, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Ferguson argues the ban "serves no legitimate purpose and its implementation will have significant, damaging impacts on the State of Washington and its residents.”

    Washington is home to approximately 60,000 active, reserve and National Guard members. The court will make its decision sometime after a three-week “noting period” has elapsed.

    Washington state already a leader for transgender people in military 

    In June, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed an amicus brief, along with eight others states,in a lawsuit that wants to change a Department of Veteran Affairs rule that denies surgical services to transgender veterans.

    The brief is part of a lawsuit brought by Marine Corps veteran Dee Fulcher and U.S. Army veteran Giuliano Silva.

    Silva, 26, wrote in a blog post he was denied coverage for a doctor-recommended mastectomy for back pain, and it lead to early retirement from service.  

    Marine Corps veteran Dee Fulcher, Army veteran Giuliano Silva and other transgender veterans asked the VA last year to change the 1999 rule.(Photo credit: Lambda Legal)

    “My doctor told me that I needed to have surgery because of my severe back pain, but simply because I am transgender, a procedure that is available to thousands of other veterans will not be covered by the VA for me,” Silva wrote. “I made a commitment to the Army and I kept it until I retired, but it is heartbreaking for me that this policy on transition-related surgery keeps the VA from upholding its duty to me.”

    Fulcher and Silva's lawsuit is not directly involved in Trump’s ban. Medical standards for military branches are under of the Department of Defense, whereas Fulcher and Silva's case is against the VA. 

    But Ferguson's brief in the lawsuit does talk about the claim regarding unmanageable costs for transgender veterans’ health care. 

    Ferguson’s team argues that covering sex reassignment surgery will not significantly raise health care costs and premiums. And that the costs associated with negative health effects could burden the states, according to the legal team’s argument.

    How would health care costs be impacted?

    President Trump's assertion that permitting transgender people in the armed services entails major health care costs appears to be overblown, based on estimates from the think tank RAND, which was asked by the Department of Defense to study the issue last year.

    Health care costs for treating active members who want to transition to another gender would increase by between $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually, RAND found. That translates to 0.04 percent to 0.13 percent of the agency's annual spending on health care.

    A supporter of LGBT rights holds up an "equality flag" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, during an event held by Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    "Our study found that the number of U.S. transgender service members who are likely to seek transition-related care is so small that a change in policy will likely have a marginal impact on health care costs and the readiness of the force," the Rand researchers wrote. 

    Some military personnel are already in the process of changing gender, or have been formally approved to change gender. The numbers are small, however, with the Associated Press noting it currently stands at about 250 service members. 

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