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Trump's Revised Restrictions On Transgender Troops In Military


We had another Friday night news dump from the Trump administration yesterday - an order restricting military service by transgender troops. It's a revision of an earlier ban issued by President Trump, a measure blocked by federal courts. Some transgender members of the military who are currently serving would be allowed to stay, but there's considerable confusion about the details of the policy. A Pentagon spokesman told The Associated Press the new rules would have no immediate impact on recruiting because the military is still required to accept transgender people under current law.

I spoke earlier with Gerry Healy, a managing partner at Military Justice Attorneys. He too found the latest policy statements vague.

GERRY HEALY: As it appears now, if you're in the military, and you're transgender, I do not think that that will be grounds for involuntary separation. And we'll see how that works out. We haven't got all the data points yet, but, you know, some of the data points coming out by the DoD - Department of Defense - is that individuals who want to take on this type of surgery would...

MCCAMMON: Gender reassignment surgery, for those who choose to have that done.

HEALY: ...Would no longer be deployable. And that would have a deleterious effect on the overall unit - in the overall unit cohesion.

MCCAMMON: Do transgender troops really present any kind of a problem for the military?

HEALY: Let's assume hypothetically that there's an individual who wants to undergo a sexual reassignment surgery but doesn't live in a metropolis area. The base is not located in an area where such surgery is readily available. What do we do then? Do we have to then reassign that individual to a different base and - just because of the surgery itself? And then does that impact the unit cohesion?

So I think you can pervert a hypothetical in such a way that it can clearly show a deleterious effect on the command or unit, particularly when you're dealing with a combat fighting force like infantry.

MCCAMMON: President Trump has said he decided to reverse the Obama administration policy of allowing transgender troops to serve after consulting with generals and military experts. How much of a hand did they have in developing this new policy?

HEALY: It is absolutely a fact that the generals - General Mattis - or Secretary of Defense Mattis and his predecessors - have absolutely been looking at this issue from the homosexual - whether they could serve in the military, to the transgender, whether they could serve in the military. They have been doing quite a bit of research on the back end to see whether there's any sort of deleterious or collateral consequences or impact on the small unit or to the entire military as a whole.

I certainly feel that it's only a matter of time before a state attorney general or ACLU to sue. So there is no doubt there's some social issues here. There's political issues here. And whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, whether you're a liberal or a conservative, you're probably going to come down on one of these sides. But it's up to the military, the Department of Defense, to take a sober, apolitical look at this and figure out, OK, how does this impact the fighting units, whether it's on a squad level of six to 13 people or an entire division? How does it affect the military?

MCCAMMON: So bottom line, though - what are the chances this survives the legal challenges that are certainly coming?

HEALY: I don't see a bright-line rule that disqualifies transgender individuals. I just don't see that holding any muster. I think President Trump - we kind of know how he does these things, whether we're dealing with military or other issues of the day. He usually comes out very, very stark with a rather radical stance and dials it back over time through negotiations. I think this is a situation where his military leaders - he will at some point defer to them as relates to executing on his guidance, and it's going to come in far less than what his tweet portrayed.

MCCAMMON: Gerry Healy is a former judge advocate general in the U.S. Marine Corps, now a managing partner at Military Justice Attorneys. Thank you for speaking with us.

HEALY: Thank you, Sarah.


MCCAMMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.