Today, the Palm Center released a statement signed by more than three dozen retired flag officers calling the Trump administration’s use of “military judgment” to defend its transgender troop ban a “pretext [that] risks inflicting harms that go well beyond” the transgender service issue.
The military leaders, who range from rear admiral to four-star general, said they issued the statement “out of grave concern that attempts to defend the transgender military ban in court will undermine the integrity of United States military judgment” and “trust in the national security apparatus.” While the Pentagon has claimed its proposed ban rests on “military judgment,” it has produced no evidence demonstrating the need for a ban, and the service chiefs and other uniformed leaders have consistently expressed support for transgender service.
“We stand with the Service Chiefs of all five military branches who have testified that transgender-inclusive service—which has been policy for over 2.5 years—has succeeded, while discrimination and double standards harm combat effectiveness by wasting talent and compromising military integrity,” today’s statement reads. “And we stand with our fellow Servicemembers currently putting their lives at risk for our security—who made the same commitment, and deserve the same treatment, as every American who has ever worn our nation’s uniform.”
The statement comes the same week that five currently-serving transgender military members will testify at a Congressional hearing, and as the Defense Department appears ready to reinstate a ban following a ruling by the Supreme Court that allows—but does not require—the military to do so.
Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin said, “The administration claims that its policy is based on ‘military judgment,’ but these retired generals and admirals have about 1,000 years of combined experience, and they are telling us that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for transgender troops would harm military readiness and compromise the integrity of military judgment. Trump is trying to use the Pentagon to advance a political agenda, a dangerous abuse of executive power.”
The officers’ conclusions rest on a list of eight detailed findings, included in the statement, that they urge policymakers and the public to consider as they debate the fate of the 14,700 transgender Americans currently in uniform—and those who aspire to serve.
One of the signatories, Gen. Johnnie Wilson, is a retired four-star Army general whose service spanned from enlisted soldier to Company Commander in Vietnam to Commanding General of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, where he oversaw 68,000 individuals in 350 locations worldwide. Inducted into the Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame, Gen. Wilson’s 39 years of service earned him numerous awards including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Meritorious Service Medal, as well as a Meritorious Service Award from the NAACP.