PORTLAND, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today held a rally decrying President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.
The president on July 26 announced via Twitter that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military. Military leaders were surprised by the unexpected announcement, and the White House has since taken formal steps to make the president’s announcement policy.
Supporters gathered in Portland’s Terry Schrunk Plaza to show support for transgender service members, veterans and all others.
“Discrimination doesn’t make America safer. We should gratefully accept the contributions of all patriots who want to serve our nation,” Merkley said. “Trump’s announcement and order that the military shift its policy is a disgraceful attack on the thousands of transgender Americans who have served our nation with honor and dignity. Today I hope the Administration heard our message loud and clear: Oregonians stand with our service members — all of our service members.”
“This senseless and erratic scheme to reverse a policy that’s working for our country and the many brave transgender Americans serving our country flies in the face of common sense and decency,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. “I am proud to stand with Senator Merkley and all Oregonians sending the message that there must be no tolerance for this cruelty that would lurch us backward and not make us any safer.”
“The State of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs values and honors the contributions of all those who have served and continue to serve honorably in the military,” said Cameron Smith, director of the department. “Unequivocally, we proudly stand as an advocate for all veterans and service members who served with honor, regardless of gender identity, and we will continue to do so.”
“Discharging talented service members simply because of their gender identity is discrimination. This discrimination will hurt thousands of American families and communities across the nation,” said Nancy Haque, co-director of Basic Rights Oregon. “We expect more from the Commander in Chief. We expect integrity and to uphold the law. All Americans should be allowed to serve openly and with integrity, and should be judged for their qualifications, nothing more, nothing less.”
Merkley has joined Senate colleagues in denouncing this discriminatory and counterproductive ban, and in calling on Secretary of Defense James Mattis to allow any American who meets existing requirements to be allowed to serve their country. Merkley is working with his Senate colleagues to offer an amendment in the 2018 defense authorization bill that would prevent Trump’s ban from going into effect. The defense bill is expected to come to the Senate floor in September.
Merkley is the author of the Equality Act, a comprehensive civil rights bill protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination.