Sen. Lesser, Sen. Cyr and Rep. Domb Lead Effort to Urge Gov. Baker to Reject Trump's Transgender Troop Ban, Affirm Commitment to Transgender Troops in Mass. National Guard

65 legislators sign letter to Baker saying, “anyone who is qualified and capable to serve should have the opportunity to do so”

Six states, including California, Colorado, Nevada and New Jersey have already declared that they will not discharge transgender troops  

SPRINGFIELD — In a letter circulated among colleagues, Senators Eric P. Lesser and Julian Cyr, Representative Mindy Domb and 62 other legislators are calling on Governor Charlie Baker to reject President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, and to affirm their right to enlist and continue to serve in the Massachusetts National Guard.

“President Trump’s recently implemented military policy is a step backwards in that it discriminates against an entire class of people based on their gender transition. It has no place in Massachusetts and diminishes the strength of the National Guard. Here in the Commonwealth, we believe that anyone who is qualified and capable to serve should have the opportunity to do so and that no soldier should be treated any differently today because of who they are. The laws of the Commonwealth affirm this belief, with gender identity well established as a protected class in the state’s non-discrimination statute,” the letter reads in part.

The letter is co-signed by the Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus, and was written in coordination with the Massachusetts-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which is actively challenging Trump’s policy in court.

The Massachusetts National Guard, popularly known as “the Nation’s First,” has a long record of inclusion, including the historic 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first African-American regiment in the Civil War.

Massachusetts would be the seventh state as of June to affirm transgender troops’ right to serve in its National Guard unit, following California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Washington state and Colorado.

In New Jersey, one of the latest states to defy Trump’s ban in its National Guard unit, a number of college students have already lost their military scholarships and nearly 15,000 active duty and reserve transgender service members could lose their jobs and health insurance, according to the organization Garden State Equality.

“These troops have their comrades’ backs just like every other member of the Nation’s First. They are willing to fight to protect us, they are willing to die for us. The least we can do is have their backs so that they can continue to do the job they signed up to do. We are talking about military families who have been thrown into uncertainty, who may have moved for deployment but could be discharged on a moment’s notice. This is all because of President Trump’s cruel ban that ignores the advice of his top generals,” Sen. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) said.

“Trump’s transgender military ban is an inhumane and discriminatory decision that intentionally debases an entire class of people, many who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces to protect us.  It is an extremely intolerant and ignorant policy that weakens the progress our country has made to create a more equal and just society,” said Senator Cyr (D-Truro). “In Massachusetts, I believe we are better than that. Governor Baker, I respectfully ask you to oppose Trump’s ban and publicly affirm the state’s support of transgender service in the National Guard of Massachusetts.  Our transgender service members work hard to protect us, so it is only fair for the Commonwealth to protect them.”

“The most important thing is that the Commonwealth reaffirms our support for our transgender neighbors, friends and family members in every sphere of our lives, including in the military and public service sectors. The Trump Administration's hateful policies give us an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to all Massachusetts residents. Massachusetts can step up, and I urge the Governor to do so,” said Rep. Mindy Domb (D-Amherst).

“The transgender military ban marks a stain on our troops and weakens our Armed Forces.  Governor Baker can limit the ban’s reach by allowing transgender people who meet all service criteria to enlist and continue to serve in the Commonwealth’s National Guard.  Massachusetts is the birthplace of the National Guard and has been a leader in fairness and human rights, including transgender rights. We call on Governor Baker to lead here again and to preserve founding principles and core American values,” said Jennifer L. Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and one of the leading attorneys challenging the transgender military ban in court.

The Trump Administration’s transgender troop ban went into effect on April 12, barring recruits with gender dysphoria from joining any branch of the U.S. military. Under the new policy, those currently serving can be discharged if diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Each of the 50 states, however, have their own National Guard units, which are under the command of the governor of each state. While National Guard units can be called up to federal service by the President in times of emergency, state action to allow transgender troops to serve openly challenges Trump’s ban.

“Every transgendered soldier or airmen currently serving in the California National Guard will remain in our ranks,” Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, who serves as assistant adjutant general for the California National Guard, said on April 12. “Further, we will not treat any soldier or airmen any differently today, than we did yesterday.”

Trump’s policy is reminiscent of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual troops to serve as long as they did not reveal their sexual orientation, which could result in discharge. That policy was repealed in an act by Congress, which was passed and then signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell did not apply to transgender people, who were still prevented from serving openly in the military due to a previous ban. The Obama Administration lifted that ban in 2016 following nearly two years of study by military and independent experts.

Read the full letter below:

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Eric Lesser