Sen. Murray on Trump's transgender military ban: ‘This is not who we are'

By: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 News

Updated:

Washington state leaders are speaking against President Donald Trump’s announcement to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military in “any capacity.”

The president tweeted on Wednesday morning that after consulting with generals and military experts that “the United States will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”

Trump claimed that the military should be “focused and decisive” and it cannot be burden with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that “transgender in the military would entail.”

Hours later, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) responded on Twitter, saying: “This does not represent who we are as a nation. Anyone who puts on a uniform to defend our freedoms deserves our country’s support and whole-hearted respect. Period.”

 

 

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) and U.S. Rep. Pramilia Jayapal (D-Wash.) also decried Trump’s announcement. Jayapal sent a statement to KIRO 7 News that read, in part:

“A hateful ban on our brothers and sisters in the transgender community from serving in the military clearly creates a second class of citizens,” she said. “Trans rights are human rights.”

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Trump’s ban would overturn an Obama administration decision to allow transgender Americans to serve openly.  

According to current U.S. Department of Defense policy, individuals “can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military solely for being transgender individuals.” An estimated 15,000 transgender people served in the U.S. military, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

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)

A White House spokeswoman is not saying what will happen to transgender troops currently serving in the military. 

The president’s comments come nearly month after 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.  

“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.”

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)

The military faced a deadline for updating its medical standards to accommodate transgender service members on Thursday, according to The Washington Post.

Fulcher and Silva's lawsuit is not directly tied into that upcoming discussion as medical standards for military branches are under of the Department of Defense, and these individuals' case is against the VA, according to Ferguson's office. 

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.

Here's what his office released in a news release announcing the brief last month: "Many of the states joining the brief ensure equal access to health care services, and none has seen a significant increase in costs. In Seattle, for example, the cost of expanding access to cover transgender individuals amounted to two-tenths of one percent of the city’s total health care budget."

When look at the cost nationally, a Rand Corp. study said only a subset of transgender people in the military would seek gender transition related treatment, estimating that health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, or a 0.04 percent to 0.13 percent increase in spending on active military.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ferguson joined the sentiment of Murray, Cantwell, and Jayapal about Trump's tweets. 

"It’s a sad day when our President discriminates on the basis of gender," Ferguson said. "Thousands of transgender individuals serve or have served their country with honor and distinction. Barring transgender individuals from serving based on anything other than their ability and conduct is wrong."


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