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Supreme Court Reversal On Transgender Ban Raises Major Concerns For Trans Military Members

Photo of US supreme court. / Bill Chizek

A U-turn from the U.S. Supreme Court on transgender military service has again upended an Obama-era policy.

Photo of Susan Robbins.
Credit Courtesy Susan Robbins.
Susan Robbins is a retired 20-year Army veteran who is transgender. She spoke at the opening of the Utah Pride Center.

In a 5-4 vote, the high court Tuesday temporarily reinstated President Trump’s policy, barring openly transgender people from enlisting and halting new gender reassignment surgeries for existing service members seeking to transition from their birth gender.

Sue Robbins, a retired 20-year Army veteran who is transgender, said the high court’s decision creates unneeded stress.

“Now there’s a fear for their job,” she said.

Shortly before President Obama left office he changed the longstanding military policy and allowed transgender people to serve openly and get the military to pay for sex-reassignment surgery.

Once in office, President Trump tweeted his intention to reverse the policy, except for individuals already serving openly and those who serve in accordance with their birth gender.

Two lower courts then blocked the president’s policy.

But Tuesday’s high court decision temporarily restores the ban while those lower-court rulings are appealed.

Robbins, who Chairs the Board of Directors for Transgender Education Advocates of Utah, said the decision will upend trans service members’ lives.

“They’ve willingly served in the military to protect us and to serve their country and now they may be in danger of being dismissed from the military without cause, in my opinion,” she said “And, for some of them, it may even be just before they reach a retirement age or it could just be the end of their employment that they’ve wanted to do all their life.”

Hill Airforce Base, Utah’s largest, recently released its economic impact statement for 2018, which shows the base is home to 25,000, including nearly 6,000 military, more than 3,500 dependents and more than 16,000 civilians. In addition, the base brings an estimated 6.3 billion dollars to the state economy.

Robbins believes the changes will affect Utahns serving in the military here and their families.

“If we have transgender individuals being discharged, that’s all about the economy. Families that all the sudden their main breadwinner no longer is employed because they’re transgender or they’re trying to go back into the closet and it becomes a very stressful experience,” Robbins said. “But they do it because they’re looking at their family and they need to bring home a paycheck. This is no way to treat our military.”

The first openly trans people were able to join the military in 2018.

Current estimates put the number of active-duty transgender service members at 7,000 with up to 4,000 in the reserves.


Daysha Eaton reports about religion and cultural issues, including social justice, for KUER.
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