After New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s May 3 order to the New Jersey Army National Guard to defy President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military servicemembers, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he wants to “explore” ways to protect trans National Guard members in this state.
Right now, however, he has no plans to join Murphy in defying the ban.
“Gov. Wolf agrees that this policy is completely antithetical to our values,” said J.J. Abbott, Wolf’s press secretary. “He has consistently opposed this policy change. We should be praising and welcoming all those who want to serve, not discriminating against them.”
Abbott added that the governor’s office is currently reaching out to other states to see what options are available to avoid discriminating against qualified recruits that happen to be transgender.
“Gov. Wolf wants to explore and exercise every available option to protect transgender military members and recruits from discrimination,” Abbott said.
New Jersey was the sixth state to defy Trump’s ban, which Wolf has publicly opposed in the past. On Jan. 23, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban by a 5-4 vote, Wolf tweeted his support of Pennsylvania’s transgender servicemembers.
“This is discrimination, plain and simple,” Wolf tweeted. “I stand with Pennsylvania’s courageous transgender military servicemembers and aspiring servicemembers. Thank you for following the call to serve your commonwealth and your country. You deserve better.”
Murphy joined California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington’s governors when he issued the order to “exercise every available option of power” to allow transgender individuals to serve openly in the New Jersey Army National Guard. The executive action is in direct defiance of the Trump administration’s ban on transgender servicemembers, which took effect on April 12.
Murphy’s office worked directly with Garden State Equality, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, to develop and implement the order.
“Since the Trump-Pence administration’s ban on transgender servicemembers went into effect last month, this disgraceful policy is already wreaking havoc,” Christian Fuscarino, executive director of GSE, said in a statement. “We’ve seen college students lose their military scholarships, countless recruits be turned away and the jobs and healthcare of nearly 15,000 active and reserve transgender servicemembers at risk of being terminated.
“Gov. Murphy’s bold action today to protect transgender troops serving in the New Jersey Army National Guard is a critical defense against the president’s unconstitutional discriminatory ban,” he added. “It means brave transgender public servants can get back to work defending our nation without fear of being discharged.”
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender servicemembers who come out — or are outed — face discharge unless they renounce and suppress their identity. A few-hundred service members who transitioned before the April 12 deadline are permitted to continue to serve.
No future trans recruits will be permitted to enlist in the military, including trans college students receiving military scholarships.
Last year, Pennsylvania and New Jersey joined a coalition of 15 states and Washington, D.C., to overturn the ban with an amicus filing in the Ryan Karnoski v. Trump case. Litigation is pending, but it is anticipated the case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months.
“As I have stated before, President Trump’s policy targeting transgender individuals who wish to serve in our military is abhorrent and un-American,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am proud to … [declare] firm opposition to this policy and [announce] my intention to use every option available to allow transgender individuals to serve in the National Guard.
“We will continue to fight this bigoted policy and defend the rights of all New Jersey residents,” he added.