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U.S. Military Chiefs Fights Trump’s Trans Ban in The Army

Under rules introduced by former U.S. President Barack Obama, the country's military did not distinguish between trans men and women and other service personnel.

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Gender Justice League executive director Danni Askini speaks during a press conference following oral arguments in a case to block a transgender military ban at the U.S. Western District Federal Courthouse, March 27, 2018, in Seattle. VOA

Four senior retired U.S. military officers on Tuesday blasted a legal ruling backing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the armed forces as “wrong” ahead of a key decision from the country’s top court on Friday.

The officers said a ruling last week by a Washington appeals court in favor of a ban on transgender recruits was misguided and backed an earlier decision that such a policy would violate their constitutional rights.

“The D.C. Court of Appeals made an error when it lifted one of the injunctions that protect transgender members of our military,” said retired officers Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, Rear Admiral John Hutson, Major General Gale Pollock and Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender.

“The need for an injunction protecting transgender people who serve their country remains precisely the same,” they said in a joint statement obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he gets a briefing on border wall prototypes, in San Diego, California March 13, 2018. VOA

In July 2017, Trump tweeted that transgender people would be banned from serving in the U.S. military, citing the “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Former defense secretary Jim Mattis last year proposed allowing trans individuals currently serving to remain.

However, new transgender recruits and trans servicemen and women who sought to transition after the ban took effect would be barred.

In its ruling, the Washington appeals court said the Mattis proposal did not represent a “blanket ban” on trans individuals.

But the retired chiefs said the rationale for the Mattis policy and the Trump tweets was “the same — politics, not military expertise — and courts should not be deferring to it.”

A 2016 RAND Corporation survey estimated that there were between 1,300 and 6,600 trans men and women on active duty in the 1.3-million-strong U.S. military.

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U.S. Army Soldier in Afghanistan. Flickr

“The Trump tweets and the Mattis policy take aim at the same people: troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, an independent research institute that focuses on LGBT+ people and the military.

“They ban the same thing: gender transition. They have the same effect: forcing transgender troops to live a lie and denying them medically necessary care.”

Other LGBT+ rights organizations echoed Belkin’s concerns.

The administration is “trying to package this as an entirely new policy, but all it does is what President Trump ordered: ban openly transgender people from bravely serving their country,” said Tara Borelli, counsel at Lambda Legal.

Ryan Thoreson, an LGBT+ researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Wording the Mattis policy slightly differently doesn’t change the plain fact that this is and always has been a ban on transgender service.”

Also Read: Donald Trump To Address The Nation on Ongoing Border Crisis

Under rules introduced by former U.S. President Barack Obama, the country’s military did not distinguish between trans men and women and other service personnel.

Trump has requested the matter be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will convene on Friday to decide whether to review the three injunctions still in place. (VOA)

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New Rule in USA to Allow Passengers to Bring Pet Animals on Flight

New Rules Could Bump Emotional-Support Animals From Planes

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Airlines can now let passengers bring other animals on board, but hefty fees would apply. Pixabay

The days of passengers bringing rabbits, turtles and birds on planes as emotional-support animals could be ending.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday proposed that only specially trained dogs qualify as service animals, which must be allowed in the cabin at no charge. Airlines could let passengers bring other animals on board, but hefty fees would apply.

Airlines say the number of support animals has been growing dramatically in recent years, and they have lobbied to tighten the rules. They also imposed their own restrictions in response to passengers who show up at the airport with pigs, pheasants, turkeys, snakes and other unusual pets.

“This is a wonderful step in the right direction for people like myself who are dependent on and reliant on legitimate service animals that perform a task to mitigate our disability,” said Albert Rizzi, founder of My Blind Spot, which advocates for accessibility for people of different ability levels.

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Airlines say the number of support animals has been growing dramatically in recent years, and they have lobbied to tighten the rules. Pixabay

Tighter rules praised

The U.S. airline industry trade group praised the tighter rules. Industry officials believe that hundreds of thousands of passengers scam the system each year by claiming they need their pet for emotional support. Those people avoid airline pet fees, which are generally more than $100 each way.

“Airlines want all passengers and crew to have a safe and comfortable flying experience, and we are confident the proposed rule will go a long way in ensuring a safer and healthier experience for everyone,” said Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America.

Flight attendants had pushed to rein in support animals, too, and were pleased with Wednesday’s proposed changes.

“The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. The union chief said untrained pets had hurt some of her members.

Veterans groups pleased

Veterans groups have sided with the airlines, arguing that a boom in untrained dogs and other animals threatens their ability to fly with properly trained service dogs. Last year, more than 80 veterans and disability groups endorsed banning untrained emotional-support animals in airline cabins.

“It’s just interesting how people want to have the benefits of having a disability without actually losing the use of their limbs or senses just so they can take their pet with them,” Rizzi said.

Southwest Airlines handles more than 190,000 emotional support animals per year. American Airlines carried 155,790 emotional support animals in 2017, up 48% from 2016, while the number of checked pets dropped 17%. United Airlines carried 76,000 comfort animals in 2017.

Department officials said in a briefing with reporters that they are proposing the changes to ensure safety on flights. They also said some passengers have abused the current rules.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes, and they could take effect any time after that.

The Transportation Department proposes a narrow definition of a service animal — it would be a dog that is trained to help a person with a physical or other disability. Passengers who want to travel with a service dog will have to fill out a federal form on which they swear that the dog is trained to help them with their disability. A dog that is trained to help a passenger with psychiatric needs would continue to qualify as a service animal.

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Oscar the cat, who is not a service animal, sits in his carry on travel bag after arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. VOA

Note from medical professional

Currently, passengers have been allowed to bring many other animals if they have a medical professional’s note saying they need the animal for emotional support.

The proposal would prohibit airlines from banning particular types of dog breeds — Delta Air Lines bans pit bulls, for example — but airline employees could refuse to board any animal that they consider a threat to other people.

The president of the Humane Society of the United States said airlines had “maligned” pit bulls by banning them. Kitty Block said the Transportation Department’s rule against breed-specific prohibitions “sends a clear message to airlines that their discriminatory practices are not only unsound, but against the law.”

The new rules would also bar the current practice by many airlines of requiring animal owners to fill out paperwork 48 hours in advance. A department official said that practice can harm disabled people by preventing them from bringing their service dog on last-minute trips. But airlines could still require forms attesting to an animal’s good behavior and health, which could present challenges if the form has to be completed by a specific institution, Rizzi said.

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The proposal also says people with service animals must check in earlier than the general public, and would end the rarely seen use of miniature horses as service animals, although a Transportation Department official indicated the agency is open to reconsidering that provision.

Airlines could require that service animals be on a leash or harness and fit in its handler’s foot space. They could limit passengers to two service animals each, although it is unclear how often that happens under the current rules. (VOA)