In a statement issued on Twitter Wednesday morning, US President Donald Trump announced that transgender Americans would no longer be allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity”, ostensibly reversing a landmark decision by the Defense Department last year to overturn its longstanding ban on openly transgender service members. While the precise impact of the president’s statement is not yet clear—tweets do not constitute an official change in policy, no ban has been formally implemented, and any attempt to do so will likely face numerous legal challenges—it quickly sparked outrage among transgender Americans, including the estimated 15,000 currently serving in the military, as well as LGBT anti-discrimination advocates.
A number of high-profile CEOs were among the many public figures to voice opposition to the decision on Wednesday, Jena McGregor reported at the Washington Post:
First out of the gate on Twitter appeared to be Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who expressed his gratitude for transgender members who serve. Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, wrote that “discrimination in any form is wrong for all of us,” and Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote that “we are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back.”
Both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s CEO and chief operating officer, expressed their support and gratitude, as did Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, a frequently outspoken advocate on gay rights issues who led many CEOs to speak out on legislation in Indiana while Vice President Mike Pence was governor, as well as in other states, such as North Carolina.
BuzzFeed and TechCrunch rounded up reactions on social media from various tech companies and their leaders, which also included other household names like Microsoft, Intel, Uber, Tumblr, and Reddit.
Last week, the Pentagon officially lifted its longstanding ban on transgender people serving openly in the US armed forces. According to the Washington Post:
[Defense Secretary Ashton] Carter said at a news conference that the policy change will take place over the next 12 months, beginning with guidance issued to current transgender service members and their commanders, followed by training for the entire military. Beginning Thursday, however, service members can no longer be involuntarily separated from the services solely on the basis of being transgender, he said. …
The details of the transgender policy change appeared to strike a compromise between some issues at play. Notably, transgender people who want to join the military will be required to wait 18 months after a doctor certifies that they are stable in their new gender before they can enlist. Defense officials familiar with the discussions have said that the Army and Marine Corps pressed to wait two years, while the Navy and Air Force thought 12 months were sufficient.
Celebrating the phaseout of the ban, Vox’s German Lopez asserts that the military’s slow but steady movement toward embracing openly LGBT soldiers is good for both those soldiers and the military itself:
The Defense Department is now the latest in a string of organizations to rethink its performance review and rating processes, the Washington Post’s Eric Yoder reports:
The Defense Department on Friday will begin another overhaul of how it evaluates its civilian federal employees, this time with the support of employee unions whose opposition doomed the previous program.
The first stage of the new Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program involves about 15,000 employees at a dozen relatively small components and headquarters functions, including several in the national capital area. Over the next two years, the large majority of the 750,000-employee DoD civilian workforce will have their performance rated under that system.
The intent is to “create a fair, credible, and transparent performance appraisal process throughout the Department. This program will link individual performance to Department of Defense values and organizational mission; will ensure ongoing recognition and communication between employees and supervisors throughout the appraisal cycle; and will be critical to effective mission accomplishment and increased employee engagement,” said a Pentagon memo announcing the startup and the entities in the first phase.
Here’s how the new system works:
When the Pentagon unveiled its new parental leave policy at the end of January, it came in for some criticism for giving female service members 12 weeks’ leave, but only 14 days for new fathers. Now, Kellie Lunney at Government Executive informs us that one member of the House of Representatives is looking to make the policy gender-neutral:
The Military Parental Leave Modernization Act would ensure that new dads receive 12 weeks of paid paternity leave, equal to the three months that female service members now receive for maternity leave. The bill also would give a minimum of 12 weeks’ paid leave to adoptive parents. In dual-military families, both service member parents would be able to take the 12 weeks leave under H.R. 4796.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., aims to consolidate the military’s “disparate and confusing parental leave policies into a single policy that is both consistent and equitable for all parents while also helping improve military readiness and workforce competitiveness,” said a statement from Duckworth’s office.
At The Hill, Rebecca Kheel adds that the National Women’s Law Center and the National Partnership for Women and Families have both endorsed the bill:
Last week, the Pentagon announced a series of family leave policy changes aimed at improving the retention of women in the armed forces, including a blanket policy of 12 weeks’ paid maternity leave for new mothers in every branch. Another addition was a pilot program that will allow some service members to freeze sperm or eggs, but as the New York Times observed this week, that benefit could be fraught with ethical, legal, and practical issues:
“Freezing sperm and eggs is not like freezing chicken for dinner,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “What happens if you die — can your wife use it? And what if your mother wants grandchildren and your wife doesn’t, does that mean the sperm can be used with a surrogate? If you’re cognitively disabled, can it be used? And what happens if the company housing your sperm or eggs goes bankrupt?”
Dr. Caplan said that the practice of freezing eggs had become widespread only in the past five years, and that it could be more problematic than preserving sperm, which has been done for decades. He said the Pentagon should inform service members that the freezing of eggs is not always successful and can cause complications.
“If your eggs won’t work, you won’t find out until you’re 39,” Dr. Caplan said.
Time‘s Charlotte Alter has another concern: What if women are eventually conscripted? The Associated Press just reported that women might soon be required to register for the draft, as female soldiers are increasingly being integrated into combat roles. Alter wonders what an egg freezing benefit would mean for women whose military service was compulsory:
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced changes to the Pentagon’s parental leave policies for military families. The Washington Post has the details:
As part of the new measures, the Pentagon will now provide 12 continuous weeks of paid maternity leave for all uniformed service members. That will be a major jump for many service members, including those in the army, who now receive only 6 weeks of paid leave. It’s likely to be a disappointment to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who, under a change last year, receive 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. Carter said members of those services who are currently pregnant will be granted 18 rather than 12 weeks.
“Twelve weeks is extremely generous … It puts us in the very top tiers of American employers,” Carter said. “But then, you have to balance that against the readiness costs associated with it.” Paternity leave will increase from 10 to 14 days.
The main motivation for this change is the same as it has been at the major private sector companies that have introduced or expanded such policies in the past year: retention, particularly of women. The Post notes that women tend to leave the armed forces at very high rates after about 10 years—which is when they are most likely to start families. Carter also announced a few other new policies to make military careers more attractive to mothers in particular, including expanded hours at child care centers, special “mothers’ rooms” for breastfeeding and pumping at larger military facilities, and a pilot program that will allow some service members to freeze sperm or eggs.
The Pentagon’s decision to have separate policies for new mothers and fathers isn’t unique; for instance, Hilton’s recently revamped policy gives two weeks to all new parents but 10 weeks to women who have just given birth. Vox’s Emily Crockett takes issue with this disparity, however, depicting it as shortsighted: