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Sec. Mattis Did Not Defy Trump or Overturn His Trans Military Ban

by Jason Parsley
Saturday Sep 2, 2017
Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Secretary of Defense James Mattis  (Source:Associated Press)

Several media outlets reported Tuesday that Secretary of Defense James Mattis halted the ban on transgender people serving in the military. But Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, is pushing back hard against that narrative saying it's false.

"The USA Today story is grossly misleading. Secretary Mattis did not make a decision to 'buy time' or to 'freeze' the current policy. The President's August 25, 2017 Memorandum expressly provides that the new ban does not go into effect until March 23, 2018 and expressly states that no one can be discharged for being transgender in the meantime," Minter stated. "There is nothing new at all here, and suggesting otherwise is terribly misleading."

The USA Today headline reads: "Mattis freezes transgender policy; allows troops to continue serving, pending study;" The Independent's headline: "Trump's transgender ban halted by Defense Secretary General Mattis;" Slate writes: "Mattis Freezes Trump's Transgender Ban Pending Further Review by People Other Than the President."

Many LGBT people and groups overnight hailed Mattis as a hero who's defying his commander in chief. But according to Minter those headlines are inaccurate.

"This inaccurate reporting is playing into a patently bogus strategy to make it appear that there is going to be some new 'study.' The August 25 Memorandum is perfectly clear: President Trump has ordered the military to ban transgender people from serving. That ban will go into effect in about 7 months, on March 23," Minter further wrote. "That appalling decision is not (and cannot possibly be, given its timing) based on any hastily assembled, post hoc 'study' that is being cooked up now in a transparent effort to provide a retroactive fig leaf for the President's bigotry."

On Wednesday morning Washington Post got it right.

Their headline leaves it open with a question: "Mattis hailed as 'hero' for 'defying' Trump on transgender policy. But did he?" But the story makes it clear saying: "But defying orders was not what Mattis was doing. What Mattis did Tuesday with President Trump's ban on transgender people in the military was to freeze its impact for the moment, at least on those currently serving. But such a delay was pretty much authorized by Trump in his formal memorandum (as opposed to his tweet) delivered to Mattis and the Department of Homeland Security on Aug. 25."

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