Elaine Donnelly
Elaine Donnelly, Center for Military Readiness

According to American Family Association, an anti-LGBT hate group: LGBT harassing groups against transgenders in military.

A Michigan-based Christian law firm has taken action to stop LGBT activists groups ongoing intimidation and harassment of organizations opposed to transgenders serving in the military.

What they are really complaining about is document production in a federal lawsuit regarding the service of transgender people (“transgender,” is an adjective, not a noun). What they are referring to is Elaine Donnely’s group, Center for Military Readiness, now being represented by the ultra-conservative Catholic Thomas More Law Center. But let us back up a bit.

This issue was settled

In 2015, the Department of Defense in concert with the Joint Chiefs commissioned a study by the RAND Corporation. RAND announced its findings in June, 2016. Their recommendation was that transgender personnel should be permitted to serve.


Turns out that Trump did not consult with “his” generals. The Joint Chiefs were satisfied with the policy allowing transgender personnel to serve and there is no evidence that their service has been detrimental. They reportedly warned Trump not to issue the ban but Trump was determined to do so in order to continue to appeal to his conservative Christian base. Fuck the establishment clause. Trump’s intentions had nothing to do with military readiness. He was satisfying conservative Christians who object to transgender personnel on biblical grounds, not military readiness (although they have stated otherwise).

On December 21 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied the Trump’s request to delay the January 1 enlistment date. The following day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled the same way

In January, 2018, the Department of Defense announced that it would not appeal those rulings.

In February, 2018, General Mattis reportedly recommended the continuing service of transgender troops. Trump was presumably having one of his many shit-fits. Pence and the Christians, including hate group leader Tony Perkins, devised a way to prevail.

The legal situation at this point required the government to substantiate that the service of transgender personnel would place an undue burden on the military. That is a challenge given the RAND study which dates back to 2015. This puts litigation in the discovery process which is based primarily on document production.

On February 22, 2018 Mattis reversed his position (presumably under considerable pressure) and issued a memorandum opposing the service of transgender personnel. Allegedly, the memorandum was written, at least in part, by Mike Pence, Ryan T. Anderson, Tony Perkins and other conservative Christians.

On March 23 Trump issued a new memorandum blocking people with gender dysphoria from service which effectively blocks transgender people from service.

Consider all of the time and money that the administration wasted at this point in order to satisfy Trump’s political desires. This had nothing to do with what was best for our national defense.

In April, attorneys representing currently serving transgender troops have issued broad subpoenas to Christian organizations. Their objective is to determine how much the administration relied on these organizations rather than military experts. Ryan Anderson, who was reportedly highly influential, is neither a medical nor military expert. His intention is to support the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Getting back to the polemic from American Family Association:

“This is a national campaign to harass organizations such as mine,” Donnelly asserted. “CMR is a small organization. We’re based in Michigan, [and] we have a very specific mission to report on and analyze military social issues. And we’re being targeted with subpoenas by well-funded LGBT groups – and the entire state of Washington is part of this litigation.”

That is untrue and illogical. There is no benefit to “harass[ing]” Donnely’s organization. This is about discovery in litigation that would be unnecessary were it not for Trump’s ill-advised actions which are about his political ambitions coupled with Pence’s biblical determination. The size and location of CMR are irrelevant. Moreover, it is unqualified to analyze anything concerning the military. The fact that the organization is small makes it easier to comply because all of the communications would have been with one person, Elaine Donnelly.

Donnelly’s organization was bankrolled and co-founded by Phyllis Schlafly. It was formed to block women’s service in combat related roles. That was based on conservative Christian doctrine. Shifting the same meme to transgender troops was easy for Donnellly.

The bottom line is that Trump did something spectacularly stupid because this issue was vigorously studied and resolved. Trump does many things that are spectacularly stupid. Pence wanted to impose his Christian views on public policy. Doing so underpins Christian supremacy. Conservative Christian groups interfered in the development of public policy.

Existing transgender troops, believing that the matter was settled, were obliged to litigate this matter. Trump made this mess. Furthermore, Donnelly needs to take some responsibility for how her own actions made the mess worse.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.