By Tom Porter
In June, a legislative landmark in the struggle for LGBT equality in America stalled, just hours before it was due to be implemented, when Defense Secretary James Mattis halted an Obama-era bill allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump tweeted that not only would transgender people be barred from enlisting, but they would be barred from serving “in any capacity.”
Trump cited the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” he claimed transgender service personnel would entail as grounds for the move.
But civil rights campaigners argue the move shows the growing influence in Trump’s America of organizations that have been labeled anti-LGBT hate groups, and which fiercely lobbied against the transgender bill.
America’s anti-LGBT hate groups
With their roots in the Christian right and contacts deep inside Trump’s White House, myriad groups claiming to stand for American family values have for decades fought to roll back LGBT rights in America.
“These are all having a pretty successful run right now with the Trump administration,” Heidi Beirich, a researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told Newsweek. “I think the military suspending transgender [people] from the military shows the influence of the religious right.”
Even before the transgender ban, moves by the Trump administration sparked concern among civil rights campaigners.
Earlier in July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a meeting behind closed doors with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has characterized homosexuality as a “degradation of our human dignity” and falsely linked it to pedophilia. Sessions has refused to discuss the content of the talks.
“ADF is the most extreme anti-gay legal organization—so extreme that it does not concede even that gay or transgender people should be permitted to exist as such,” Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights told CNN.
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