News and Commentary

Navy Secretary Defies Trump: Transgender Troops ‘Should Be Able To Serve’

On Thursday, taking issue with President Trump, who tweeted that he planned to bar transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer told reporters that “any patriot” should be allowed to serve.

Spencer stated, “We will process and take direction of a policy that is developed by the [Defense] secretary [with] direction from the president and march out smartly. On a fundamental basis, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military.”

On Thursday, Trump reiterated his stance, saying he’s “doing the military a great favor” by banning transgender troops, asserting, “It’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”

In July, Spencer said military branches should not be a “petri dish for social experiments,” adding that the Pentagon should have an overarching policy for all the armed services. He said:

I totally believe that policy should be developed at the [Department of Defense] level, and then discussed and socialized and deployed and then obeyed. We have to work together, including all our service people, to make sure that they are given what they need, whether that be spiritually, whether that be psychologically, whether that’s materialistically, to fight forward so that — so readiness is the key and lethality is the product.

Other upper-echelon military figures seemed to side with Spencer; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said until the White House sends a directive to the Pentagon, no policies will change; Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft pledged not to “break faith” with his transgender service members.

Meanwhile, The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of five transgender service members, claiming Trump’s tweets violate the Equal Protection component of the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment.