Sen. Lesser, Sen. Cyr, Rep. Domb Welcome Baker Administration Support for Transgender Troops, Urge Commitment to Promised "Waivers"

SPRINGFIELD — Senators Eric P. Lesser and Julian Cyr, and Representative Mindy Domb praised a response from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) reiterating Massachusetts’ support for transgender members of the Massachusetts National Guard on Wednesday.

The group had previously led a number of legislators in 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.

In a response to their letter, EOPSS Secretary Thomas Turco III wrote back, “The Massachusetts National Guard and the Baker-Polito Administration will continue to support transgender Soldiers and Airmen in serving our Commonwealth with dignity and respect.”

Secretary Turco also pledged that the Massachusetts National Guard “will continue to assist in the endorsement of waivers and exceptions in accordance with federal policy in order to support accession and retention of the best qualified individuals in our military force regardless of their gender identity.”

“We are grateful that the Baker Administration has stepped up to defend the dignity of all our National Guard members, including those who are transgender. Now, we hope that they keep to their word and actively work on behalf of Massachusetts residents to secure waivers from this misguided and malicious federal policy that ignores the advice of our top generals to suit President Trump’s whims,” said Sen. Lesser (D-Longmeadow).

“Protecting the right of all to serve our country is an inherent American value and a value of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “Although I’m angered by the misguided policies of the current occupant of the White House, I am grateful for the commitment in writing from Secretary Turco that the Massachusetts National Guard will continue to embrace all wishing to serve, including transgender and gender non-conforming residents of our Commonwealth. I believe every one who serves our country is a patriot.”

“I am grateful to the Secretary of Public Safety and Security for their continuing commitment to equality for our transgender neighbors. I so appreciate the strong support of my colleagues and Governor Baker to resist this administration’s mean-spirited, hateful, disrespectful, and divisive policies towards the transgender community,” said Rep. Mindy Domb (D-Amherst).

“We applaud Governor Baker for recognizing that excluding qualified transgender servicemembers from the National Guard weakens our military and demeans the Commonwealth’s core values of fairness and equal treatment.  We appreciate the commitment of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to ensuring that transgender individuals who meet military standards have every possible opportunity to serve their country and the Commonwealth. Citizens of the birthplace of the National Guard deserve no less,” 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.

According to the Department of Defense, waivers or exceptions to the transgender troop ban policy may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

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Eric Lesser