Attempts to regulate the lives of transgender individuals were advanced both nationally and across the state of Texas this week.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced, in a series of tweets, that transgender individuals would no longer be able to serve in the U.S. military, overturning a 2016 change in policy under the Obama administration that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.
“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,” Trump’s tweets read. “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.”
Trump’s statement left many wondering when this policy would go into place and what the announcement means for transgender individuals currently serving in the military. However, at this time, it appears there will be no immediate change following the announcement, according to White House officials.
Pentagon leaders, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the confusion and said until formal policy measures are taken, transgender individuals would still be allowed to serve in the armed forces, and the military would “continue to treat all of (its) personnel with respect.”
“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Dunford wrote in a letter to other top military officials.
Trump’s announcement sparked a deluge of response, from harsh backlash to others jumping to support the president’s new position. Many supporters of the announcement said his policy change came after talking with military officials, while those against the announcement said it was another way to discriminate against the transgender community.
“There are those who’d like to use the military to experiment or to try different ideas out, including ones like this,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said on a radio show. “But what I always do is rely upon the experts, and I’m confident that’s what the president has done … And I believe that that’s the correct course of action.”
Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who has declared his bid for the Senate in the 2018 election, spoke out against the policy on the same platform Trump took to announce it.
“Nevermind that transgender Americans are today putting their lives on the line, serving (with) honor, earning praise from their commanders,” O’Rourke said on Twitter. “Every time we’ve made the military more reflective of America, it’s been made stronger.”
Closer to home, legislation that would prohibit transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choice was approved by the Texas Senate last week.
Senate Bill 3, the special session’s version of the controversial “bathroom bill,” authored by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would require transgender individuals to use the bathroom in accordance with their birth certificate or government-issued I.D. in government buildings and public schools.
No action on the bill has been taken in the House. The first step will be a public committee hearing, and the committee must approve the bill before it can be debated and voted on by the full House.
The Texas Senate has taken action on almost all of Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20 priorities. However, Abbott said he won’t add any more topics to the call until bills for the initial 20 are sent to his desk.
While the special session can last the full 30 days, it won’t be cheap. The San Antonio Express-News estimates that the session has already cost taxpayers more than $416,000 over the first 13 days.