Amid widespread local criticism of President Trump’s decision to block transgender people from the military, a San Diego congressman Wednesday filed an amendment to the key defense appropriations bill to block the action.
The amendment by Rep. Scott Peters states: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, enforce, or observe in any way, any directive from the President of the United States that bars or restricts the ability of a person to serve in the Armed Forces because such person is transgender.”
His action came in response to a series of tweets by Trump, who wrote: “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
Trump’s policy, if implemented, would reverse that of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who last year announced that transgender people could serve openly.
Meanwhile, the presidents of San Diego Democrats for Equality, Veterans Democratic Club of San Diego and the San Diego Progressive Democratic Club — all service veterans — decried the president’s move.
Peters, a Democrat from La Jolla, cited Pentagon-commissioned study findings that between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender individuals are on active duty in the U.S. military and that enlistment of transgender Americans would have a negligible impact on readiness, and no significant effect on cohesion or effectiveness.
“I can’t think of anything more backwards than turning away a brave, qualified American who wants to serve in our all-volunteer military because of their gender identity,” Peters said. “There are already thousands of transgender Americans serving honorably and openly in our Armed Forces. There is a former member of SEAL Team 6 — the most elite military unit in history — that came out as transgender.”
He said Congress must “stand up against backwards politics, trust military leaders and put national security first.” It is not clear how those service members will be treated under this new policy, he said.
The $700 billion defense appropriations bill is working its way through Congress.
Other San Diego-area Democratic legislators also released statements criticizing the president.
“The one thing this president needs to convey to our transgender service members and veterans is gratitude — gratitude that they stood up and raised their right hand and said, `Send me,”‘ said Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego.
“Trans Americans have been through so much to make a decision around their gender identity — a decision that most of us can’t even begin to understand,” said Davis, who sits on the House Armed Forces Committee. “Trans Americans are courageous, they are brave, they are strong. They are exactly who we want fighting for our country.”
She also took to Twitter to point out that President Harry Truman integrated the military on this day in 1948.
Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said Trump reneged on campaign promises to protect the rights of LGBT Americans.
“Barring transgender people from the U.S. military is denying them the right to serve their country, and that is unacceptable and disgraceful,” said Atkins, a lesbian who previously served as Assembly speaker and as a San Diego City Council member.
“Right now, thousands of transgender Americans are serving proudly, courageously and effectively,” Atkins said. “They should be allowed to continue to do so. Excluding talented and able-bodied people who are eager to serve only makes our country weaker.”
Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, tweeted: “His excuses are B.S. but if disruptive & costly are disqualifying for military service then he certainly can’t serve as Commander in Chief.”
Gloria is a gay former City Council member who served as interim mayor for six months after the resignation of Bob Filner in 2013.
One of the two Republican members of the San Diego House delegation, Duncan D. Hunter of Alpine, came out in support of Trump’s plan.
“The president’s decision was the absolute right decision,” Hunter said in a statement posted on his website. “National security should trump social experimentation, always. It’s about time that a decision is made to restore the warrior culture and allow the U.S. military to get back to business.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, didn’t immediately comment.
“The United States military is the pre-eminent fighting force on the planet and that includes the currently serving members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” said Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality and an LGBT Marine veteran honorably discharged under the former Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
“That is why this change in policy is cruel, bigoted, un-American and imposes a ban that defies the core principles of military service,” he said.
Timothy Caudill, president of the Veterans Democratic Club of San Diego, also an LGBT Marine veteran, said: “To tell anyone that they are not good enough to serve their country because of who they are is disgusting and would only be sad by a person who has no idea what military service is like.”
Jose Caballero, president of the San Diego Progressive Democratic Club and a Navy veteran, said: “As a nuclear operator for the U.S. Navy, we would only judge a sailor by the work they put in not their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“What Trump is doing is weakening the cohesion of the military forces that will distract them from completing their mission. The progressive community will fight this tooth and nail, because we will never stand for inequality!”
The San Diego LGBT Center in Hillcrest issued a statement that reads: “The notion that thousands of transgender military personnel should be summarily abandoned is hateful, dangerous and unacceptable. These are brave, dedicated people who have devoted themselves to protecting the democratic ideals of this country, often at great risk and at great cost to themselves and their loved ones.”
The LGBT Center said military service members have enough to manage “without the fear of a witch hunt,” and are being threatened on the basis of something that has absolutely no bearing on their fitness to serve.
In a Twitter post, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said “any American who wants to serve should be able to do so, regardless of gender identity.”
— City News Service contributed to this report.