SAN FRANCISCO, CA — A broad coalition of conservative activists, think tanks, pollsters, advocacy groups, politicians, and media outlets has launched an attack campaign to reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell” for transgender service members. According to Palm Center director Aaron Belkin, “This is a full-scale effort to inflame the culture wars on the backs of loyal transgender troops.”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the widely discredited law that prohibited gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving openly in the military, was repealed in 2011, but transgender Americans were not allowed to serve until June 30, 2016. For the past year, they have been able to serve honestly, and to receive medically necessary health care.
During the past several weeks, however, Breitbart, Fox, Christian Broadcasting Network, Axios and Newsmax ran stories criticizing transgender troops; the Family Research Council, Center for Military Readiness and a group of 85 conservative thought leaders called for reinstating the ban; the Heritage Foundation applauded a delay in inclusive policy; Rasmussen tried to use new polling data to suggest that the public opposes transgender military service; and the Liberty Council argued that inclusive policy compromises religious beliefs of military personnel.
Last Friday, Representatives Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Steve King (R-IA) introduced amendments to deny health care to transgender troops, and Tucker Carlson called on Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign if transgender troops are allowed to serve.
According to Belkin, “This is a coordinated campaign to reinstate ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for transgender troops. It is striking that the old guard didn’t seem to learn anything from the failure of the first ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”