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Transgender, LGBT rights at risk again

Once again, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people find their rights at risk.

First, a Virginia psychotherapist has sued Maryland in U.S. District Court over its ban on treating minors with conversion therapy, a controversial practice that tries to will out of people any sexual orientation demonized by some in our society. And in another blow to those who identify as LGBT, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the administration of President Donald Trump to institute restrictions on transgender people who serve in the military.

Both actions are a shameful reversal of recent advances in the recognition that heterosexuality is not the only normal sexual orientation and that gender identity should not be a factor for employment.

Let’s start with the ban on conversion therapy. Maryland is among only 15 states and Washington, D.C., to adopt such a ban; it made the right decision to protect young people coming to understand their sexuality. Lifting the ban would just put children at risk of being subjected to emotional turmoil.

The American Psychological Association and The American Academy of Pediatrics are among the groups that have said the practice does more harm then good. Let’s face it, conversion therapy is not for the “patients,” it’s really for the moms and dads trying to “fix” their children. When it doesn’t work — and it never really does — some kids are left dealing with self-doubts and guilt. Others will force themselves into being something that is not true to who they really are.

In his lawsuit, Christopher Doyle argued that the ban violates his right to free speech and religion. As a health professional licensed by the state, his religious views shouldn’t be a part of the equation. Mr. Doyle also believes the ban prevents his clients from using their religious views to, in effect, help fend off “unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors or identities.” We bet these attractions are unwanted more because a child is worried about how certain people view them. Maybe the kids should instead be encouraged to embrace who they are.

As for the transgender ban, the Supreme Court has not issued a final ruling on the matter but instead has lifted lower court bans on the policy’s implementation while challenges to it, including one in Maryland, proceed. That still leaves the door open for the justices to decide on the issue in the future. Given the conservative-leaning make up of the court, we doubt that would bode well in the long-run for all trans soldiers to be able to serve openly. The ban bars those who identify with a gender different from that listed on their birth certificate from serving and prohibits the military from paying for gender reassignment surgery in nearly all cases. The ban would not apply to transgender soldiers already openly serving or those who would serve under the gender identity assigned at birth.

After the decision by the high court, a Pentagon spokesman contended that the military would treat transgender soldiers with dignity. What they were instituting was not a ban, she said.

We wonder what their definition is of a ban.

Disallowing soldiers because they are transgender, something that has nothing to do with their ability to do the job, further marginalizes those in the trans community who already feel stigmatized.

In applauding the decision, the Pentagon said they needed to ensure the armed forces remained lethal and combat-effective. But at least one study by the Rand Corp. found that having transgender military members does not harm “readiness” or have all that much of an impact on health care costs — a less than 1 percent increase to be exact.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat and a military veteran who lost both her legs in combat, ridiculed the ban and said she wasn’t thinking about soldier gender while at war.

“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter on that dusty field in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, male or female," she wrote on social media after the high court’s decision. "All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind."

But now the Trump administration is poised to leave trans soldiers behind instead.

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