President Trump may have played dumb when a reporter questioned him about his transgender military ban last week, but Congress sent him a very loud message Thursday when they voted to overturn his policy.
"I can't hear you," Trump said in response to Chris Johnson's repeated questions about reconsidering the ban, according to the Washington Blade. Johnson had previously made headlines for standing up to the administration when they attempted to overstep their authority in the press room. "I can't hear a word you're saying." While Trump did not provide a substantive answer then, the White House provided an emailed statement later about the issue.
"Current policy regarding transgender military service was developed in consultation with senior military officials, medical experts and combat veterans who determined that the previous policy eroded military readiness and unit cohesion," White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told the Washington Bladein an emailed statement. "The White House has no policy announcements at this time."
Well, it looks like Democrats were already at work, regardless of the White House's intent. Led by Representative Jackie Spier, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the current defense appropriations bill that would block the use of funds for implementation of the ban. This would effectively end the practice and allow trans folks to serve in the military as their lived gender as opposed to what was assigned at birth.
"With this vote, the U.S. House of Representatives just sent a powerful message that bigotry and discrimination should have no place in our Armed Forces," Jennifer Dane, interim executive director of the non-profit Modern Military Association of America, said in a statement, urging Congress to "ensure this critically important amendment is passed." Democrats attempted the same maneuver last year.
Trump initially signalled his intent to ban trans service members in a July 2017 tweet, which reversed an Obama-era decision to allow trans people to serve openly beginning in 2016. This was later codified former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in March 2018. A federal court ruled in January 2019 that Trump's trans military ban was legal because it did not constitute a blanket ban. Advocates for trans service members strongly disagreed with that court's ruling.