As Congress conducts a hearing on the implementation of open service for transgender people in the military and considers legislation to undo the Trump administration’s misguided and discriminatory policy banning transgender people from serving in the United States military, they would do well to remember history and recall that if we had left determination of who is fit to serve our country solely to the military leaders, our military today would likely be composed exclusively of white straight men.
Leaders from World War II, such as General George Marshall and General Omar Bradley, openly criticized President Harry Truman’s 1948 order to integrate African Americans into the armed forces. The Army actually kept African Americans in separate units until the casualties in the early days of the Korean War forced them to allow African Americans to join previously all white combat units. In the 1970s, a group of admirals openly fought against the chief of naval operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt’s attempt to fully integrate the Navy. Prior to Zumwalt’s ascension to the Navy’s top job, African Americans in the Navy were primarily relegated to non-combat positions, like cooks and cleaners.The above excerpt was originally published in The Hill.