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Friday, August 18, 2017

New Jersey Senator in Asbury Park to Keep Transfolk in Military

Written by  Rai Guerra-Nelson

In the wake of President Trump’s announcement that he would ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, today U.S. Senator Cory Booker was joined by LGBT advocates at Garden State Equality’s office in Asbury Park to discuss legislative efforts to protect transgender service members.

“To hear the thousands of transgender Americans serving our nation with honor and distinction so cavalierly dismissed by our president as a ‘disruption’ is simply disgraceful,” said Sen. Booker. “President Trump’s reckless policy undermines our values as Americans and threatens our national security. These brave Americans make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our nation and deserve to be treated as the heroes they are.”

Under President Obama, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter laid out a plan that allow‎ed transgender service members to serve openly in the military and transition gender while serving, and would have permitted transgender individuals to join the military starting July 1st, 2017. In June, Senator Booker sent a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urging the Department of ‎Defense to implement the Transgender Service Member Policy as planned on the July deadline, but did not receive a response.‎

Just last week, President Trump announced on Twitter that he is banning transgender service members, citing that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” In response, Sen. Booker joined a bipartisan group of Senators in strong opposition to President Trump’s policy change.

Sen. Booker is currently working with his colleagues in the Senate on legislation that would protect transgender service members from President Trump’s reckless polices and uphold the Transgender Service Member Policy.

“There are more than 15,000 transgender troops serving all throughout our military. Instituting a ban only weakens our forces and sends a message to our troops that their service is not valued” said Christian Fuscarino head of Garden State Equality. “Our service members stand and defend our nation’s sacred values every day. President Trump’s decision undermines those values, and is a disservice to our military and to our country. I applaud Senator Booker for speaking out against this outrageous decision and standing with all of America’s troops.”

“I’ve worked with transgender service members for years. They are among the bravest and most accomplished soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen I’ve ever known,” said former Army Captain Sue Fulton, part of the first West Point class to include women. “President Trump’s tweets were an insult to their service and to their units, and beneath the dignity of the Armed Forces. We are tremendously grateful to Senator Booker for standing strong for these service members, and opposing this potential blow to our military readiness.”

“I believe it’s unconscionable that a sitting US president would believe they can move policy via social media,” said Jennifer Long, a retired transgender service member. “The decisions of readiness, and, manning should remain the responsibility of the military commanders in the Pentagon. Fourteen other nations have open transgender service members in their ranks with no diminished readiness or effectiveness of the force. The 15,000 transgender service members currently serving and the 150,000 who are veterans have and are defending this nation with distinction.”

During his time in the Senate, Sen. Booker has stood in strong support of the LGBT community. In January, Sen. Booker was joined by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in convening a roundtable discussion in Philadelphia with LGBT leaders from across the region to discuss the potential impact of polices proposed by President Trump and lay out the path forward in defending LGBT rights in a Trump Administration. In May, Sen. Booker, along with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), led a group of 46 Senators in reintroducing historic, comprehensive federal legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT Americans.

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