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National Guard in California, Nevada, Washington State, Oregon, and New Mexico Defy Trump’s Trans Troops Ban

By samantha.allen@thedailybeast.com (Samantha Allen)
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

The Nevada, Washington State, and Oregon National Guards will continue to allow transgender people to serve.

As the Trump administration’s transgender troop ban enters its second full week of being in effect, these three states have told The Daily Beast that they will join two others—California and New Mexico—who have said that transgender people will continue to be able to serve in their National Guard organizations.

“The State of Nevada does not discriminate against anyone, including and especially servicemembers, based on gender identity or expression,” Helen Kalla, communications director for Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, told The Daily Beast. “Governor Sisolak believes the only criteria to serve in the Nevada National Guard is one’s readiness to serve.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told The Daily Beast that she is “appalled that the Supreme Court is delivering an intentional blow to civil rights by supporting a push from the Trump Administration to bar transgender people from serving in the military.”

“I will use every option available to ensure that every eligible Oregonian, regardless of gender identity, can serve their state and country,” Gov. Brown added.

A spokesperson for Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee told The Daily Beast that his office “stands in solidarity with transgender Americans across the country in opposing this policy and won’t stop fighting until it is defeated.”

“Until then, we will continue to welcome transgender service members to the greatest extent possible under the rules,” the spokesperson added. “It’s our understanding that is what New Mexico is doing as well.”

All 50 states—and four U.S. territories—have their own National Guard units that are primarily under gubernatorial control. That chain of command could allow individual governors to challenge—or at least test the limits of—the Trump administration’s newly-implemented policy, which disqualifies recruits with gender dysphoria while threatening most currently-serving transgender people with the risk of discharge.

As The Hill reported shortly after the transgender troop ban ban went into effect on April 12, Maj. Gen. Matthew Beavers of the California National Guard said that gender identity “is the least of our concerns.”

He added that California will not only work to “bring transgender individuals in under the current policy” but also that “every transgendered soldier or airmen currently serving in the California National Guard will remain in our ranks.”

“Further,” Maj. Gen. Beevers noted, “we will not treat any soldier or airman any differently today than we did yesterday.”

Then, on April 20, a spokesperson for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham confirmed to local TV station KOB4 that transgender service will still be permitted within the state’s National Guard, making it the second state to buck against the intention of the Trump administration’s ban in this fashion.

Reached for comment, Gov. Lujan Grisham’s communications director Tripp Stelnicki told The Daily Beast, “We’re not interested in auditing any individual’s fitness to serve on the basis of gender identity.”

Now, the addition of Nevada, Washington and Oregon makes five. All five of these states have Democratic governors. All five also number among the minority of states that have non-discrimination protections for transgender people in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. Combined, the five states boast a total of over 40,000 people serving in their National Guard organizations.

(The Daily Beast has reached out to several other governor’s offices for comment on their handling of transgender service within their respective National Guard organizations and will update this story as they respond.)

SPART*A, an organization that supports transgender service members, told The Daily Beast that they are pleased by the growing number of states who are pressing opposition to the transgender troop ban in this manner.

“SPART*A supports any and all organizations, including military organizations, that stand against discrimination and encourage the best and the brightest to serve our nation,” SPART*A communications director B Fram told The Daily Beast. “[These states] and the nation will benefit from retaining, and hopefully accessing, all who are qualified, regardless of gender identity.”

It is currently unclear how—or if—the Department of Defense will respond to individual states announcing that transgender service can continue within their respective National Guard organizations. Reached for comment, a DoD spokesperson referred The Daily Beast to spokespeople for the United States Army who, in turn, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Also unclear is how these states—California, New Mexico, and Nevada—will skirt the Trump administration’s policy. Maj. Gen. Beevers, for example, told The Hill—a bit cryptically—that the California National Guard will “exercise every available avenue inside the policy and out, to ensure transgendered people who want to serve the California National Guard are afforded the opportunity to serve.”

(The California National Guard did not immediately provide further clarification to The Daily Beast after being reached for comment.)

Gov. Jay Inslee’s spokesperson did seem to acknowledge that the Trump administration’s policy could pose certain limitations: “As a branch of the U.S. military, the National Guard is subject to the same federal eligibility rules everywhere."

Elsewhere, however, the impact of the transgender troop ban is continuing to make itself known:  the Naval Academy will ban transgender students in 2020, as will the Air Force Academy. The Coast Guard Academy, as the Associated Press reported, will also turn away transgender applicants.

This on top of signs that the Trump administration’s policy is already taking a human toll: Map Pesqueira, a University of Texas at Austin freshman and a transgender man, revealed last week that he had lost his military scholarship because he had undergone transition-related medical care. Pesqueira has since been able to raise over $25,000 through a GoFundMe to help cover school expenses.

As military academies fall in line with the policy, five states have now reiterated that they will continue to find ways to welcome transgender people into their National Guard organizations. Time will tell if that number grows further.

UPDATE 4/25/19 3:30 P.M.: This piece has been updated to reflect new statements from the Oregon and Washington State governor’s offices.

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