News Round-Up: July 28, 2017

Some news items you may have missed:

• Fitness trainer Ben Zerbst (above) is concerned about his “t-shirt tan,” which gives you just one more reason to keep staring, as if you need one 🙂

• Kathryn Knott, convicted Philadelphia gay-basher, is now claiming self-defense in a civil lawsuit from the couple she helped attack. One of her victims had his jaw wired shut for 8 months due to injuries.

• Stephen Colbert slammed Donald Trump’s tweets announcing a new ban on transgender military service members: “I began my day today as I often begin my days, by checking Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Just to see how far the crazy has spread. And today, I really think he’s off his meds, as he’s gone from crazy to cruel.”

• The GOP-controlled House has approved $1.6 billion for President Donald Trump’s long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump promised at nearly every rally and campaign event that Mexico would pay for the wall.

• 19 Attorneys General have sent a letter to Congress opposing Trump’s transgender military ban.

• Woofy Instahunk Roberto Caccamo sends regards from Italy…

Open Letter: 45 Senators Ask Secretary Of Defense To Reconsider Trump Trans Military Ban

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of NY

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Armed Services Committee, has penned an open letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis asking him to reconsider Donald Trump’s surprise ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military.

The letter, signed by 44 other senators, urges the Pentagon to at least let the Department of Defense finish a review on the issue before bringing in the new policy.

Gillibrand is joined by 42 Democratic senators as well as Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

“We strongly oppose this policy change and urge you to advise the President against it,” Gillibrand and the senators wrote.

A new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released today shows 58% of Americans agree transgender military members should be allowed to serve.

Only 27% said definitively “no.”

Here’s the full text of the letter and signees:

Dear Secretary Mattis,

We are writing regarding the President’s announcement via Twitter yesterday that transgender Americans can no longer serve in the military. We strongly oppose this policy change, and urge you to advise the President against it. This announcement contradicts existing Defense Department policies, undermines our military readiness, and puts our transgender service members as well as their commanders in an impossible situation. We appreciate General Dunford’s message that no policy changes should be made until implementation guidelines have been issued. We further write to request that, at a minimum, you do not separate any service member due to the person’s gender identity until you have completed the assessment that you announced on June 30, have reported back to Congress about any challenges that you foresee in the accession and retention of transgender troops, and determined the Department is unable to mitigate these challenges.

Transgender Americans who serve in our military put their lives on the line to protect America. They make up a small percentage of the military population, but are reportedly twice as likely to serve in the military as other Americans. Transgender service members have been serving openly since the policy was changed in June 2016 and in that time no service has reported any issues associated with their service.

Forcing these brave Americans out of our military would be cruel and discriminatory. It would harm our readiness by denying the military of these service members’ capabilities and requiring the military to replace them at a time when the recruiting pool for the services continues to shrink. It will harm morale in the military as service members see their brothers and sisters in arms — some of whom are currently forward deployed — thrown out simply because of their identity. And the uncertainty associated with making policy this way is already harming our military readiness and morale, as transgender service members and their superiors struggle to make sense of the policy and what it means for them today and tomorrow.

Any American who wants to serve and meets the standards should be allowed to serve our country. Transgender service members are serving with honor and distinction today and we ask that you, as our Secretary of Defense, assure them that their service will not be ended simply because of who they are.

Sincerely,

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin T. Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernard Sanders (I- Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D- N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Defense Secretary Mattis Was “Appalled” By Trump’s Transgender Ban Tweets

In announcing his ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military, Donald Trump made a point to say the decision was made “after consultation with my Generals and military experts,” but apparently Trump blind-sided just about every on his military team.

And what he didn’t make abundantly clear was the ban was actually was a snap maneuver to save money for his Mexican wall.

You know, the wall Mexico was going to pay for?

From the New York Times:

Mr. Trump made the declaration on Twitter, saying that American forces could not afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender service members. He said he had consulted generals and military experts, but Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, was given only a day’s notice about the decision.

Mr. Trump elected to announce the ban in order to resolve a quietly brewing fight on Capitol Hill over whether taxpayer money should pay for gender transition and hormone therapy for transgender service members. The dispute had threatened to kill a $790 billion defense and security spending package scheduled for a vote this week.

But rather than addressing that narrow issue, Mr. Trump opted to upend the entire policy on transgender service members.

His decision was announced with such haste that the White House could not answer basic inquiries about how it would be carried out, including what would happen to openly transgender people on active duty. Of eight defense officials interviewed, none could say.

Mr. Mattis, who was on vacation, was silent on the new policy. People close to the defense secretary said he was appalled that Mr. Trump chose to unveil his decision in tweets, in part because of the message they sent to transgender active-duty service members, including those deployed overseas, that they were suddenly no longer welcome.

Repeat: “The defense secretary said he was appalled…”

Trump’s “Generals And Military Experts” Did Not Know Trump Anti-Trans Policy Was Coming

Even though Donald Trump began his tweet banning transgender military service members by stating, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts…” it’s become clear that the top military leaders at the Pentagon were surprised by the bombshell announcement yesterday.

As CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr points out, today’s announcement from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating there will be no changes in policy in the short term, does not offer any clear support for the president’s sudden shift in direction on transgender military.

Watch below.

The Late Late Show’s James Corden Sings & Dances Some “L-O-V-E” To Transgender Military

The Late Late Show‘s James Corden trolled Donald Trump’s latest policy debacle via a song and dance parody of Nat King Cole’s “L.O.V.E.”

But Corden’s version, meant as commentary on Trump newly-tweeted transgender military ban, is spelled, “L.G.B.T.”

Armed with a swing band and backup dancers, Corden doesn’t miss his chance to skewer Trump’s well-known sensitivities about his diminutive assets:

“Trump wants to seem like a manly man, overcompensating for his tiny… hands.”

Watch the clip below:

Joint Chiefs Of Staff: No Change In Transgender Policy Until Further Notice

An email obtained by USA Today indicates the Navy will not be discharging transgender sailors anytime soon in response to Donald Trump’s surprise tweets yesterday morning announcing a sudden ban on transgender service in the military.

The email from Vice Adm. Robert Burke also acknowledges that Trump’s announcement is “causing concern for some of our sailors and that they likely have questions.”

What’s more, it indicates that the Trump’s tweets that the U.S. military will not accept transgender troops into its ranks or allow them to serve in any capacity caught military brass unawares.

His email represents the military’s first known steps to deal with the tumult unleashed by Trump’s tweets.

Burke notes that the office of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is “working to quickly discern the President’s intent.” Mattis was on vacation when Trump made his announcement.

Also on Thursday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joe Dunford sent a memo to the service chiefs Thursday saying there will be no change in current policy on transgender troops until Mattis receives direction from Trump. That indicates there has been no formal policy guidance issued from the White House.

In the meantime, Burke said that no transgender sailors – nor likely troops from other services – will be discharged until there is clear guidance from the White House.

There may be as many as 6,600 transgender troops on the military’s active duty force of 1.3 million, according to a RAND Corp. report.

UPDATE – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued this further guidance (from Reuters):

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said in a written message on Thursday to military leaders that there has been no change yet to the military’s policy on transgender personnel, despite plans for a ban announced by President Donald Trump.

“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, said in the written message to service chiefs, commanders and senior enlisted leaders, first reported by Reuters.

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

Politico: House Repubs Wanted To Stop Military-Funded Trans Surgeries, Trump Jumped The Shark

According to Politico, today’s transgender ban in the military by President Trump came about because House Republicans went to Trump to stop the military from paying for transgender’s gender reassignment surgeries. Trump apparently jumped the shark.

A handful of House Republicans threatened funding for Trump’s Mexican wall. They went around Defense Secretary Mattis to Trump asking him to do something about the military funded surgeries, and instead got all trans military booted.

“There are several members of the conference who feel this really needs to be addressed,” senior House Appropriations Committee member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said Tuesday. “This isn’t about the transgender issue; it’s about the taxpayer dollars going to pay for the surgery out of the defense budget.”

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” a senior House Republican aide said in an email. The source said that although GOP leaders asked the White House for help on the taxpayer matter specifically, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive.

Trump: U.S. Military Will Not Allow Transgender Individuals To Serve In Any Capacity

Donald Trump announced this morning via Twitter that transgender Americans will not be able to “serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

In June 2016, the Pentagon lifted a ban on transgender men and women serving in the military. This is a huge U-turn for trans military personnel who have been serving openly for months.

No word on how Trump and his generals expect to proceed. Will those trans personnel be discharged?

Important to note that the Trump administration has also stepped back from protections for transgender students.

Remember – during the 2016 campaign, Trump declared he would be a better ally for the LGBTQ community than Hillary Clinton.

Stay tuned.

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

The Rand Corporation estimates the cost of gender transition–related health care coverage for transgender personnel to be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a tiny 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.

Oh, and just a little reminder…

UPDATE:

Axios‘ Jonathan Swan received this response from the White House on the newly announced policy:

“This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue. How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?”

So, Team Trump is making this a move for anti-trans votes in the Rust Belt.

How does this “make America great again?”

Amendment To Deny Transgender Military Service Members & Family Healthcare Voted Down In U.S. House

The U.S. House of Representatives voted down an amendment today that would have ripped away critical health care for transgender service members and military dependents.

Proposed by virulently anti-LGBT Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), the amendment would have barred access to transition-related health care — including critically important care such as hormone therapy — for service members and military family members.

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 214 to 209.

“Congresswoman Hartzler’s attempt to strip healthcare from service members and their families in a time of war was unpatriotic, unconstitutional, and just plain vile, we are pleased to see that the House of Representatives voted down this amendment” said OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn.

Since October 2016, it has been the policy of the Department of Defense to allow transgender members of the armed forces to serve openly and authentically. Estimates show there are more than 15,500 transgender individuals currently serving in the armed services. In addition to these service members, thousands of service members also have members of their families who are transgender.

(via press release)