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Grenell mum on Trump's trans troop ban

by Alex Madison

Richard Grenell, left, talks with Log Cabin Republicans<br>member Norman Larson at a reception in San Francisco. Photo: Alex Madison
Richard Grenell, left, talks with Log Cabin Republicans
member Norman Larson at a reception in San Francisco. Photo: Alex Madison  

Gay Republican politico Richard Grenell visited San Francisco one night after President Donald Trump dealt a blow to the transgender community. In three July 26 tweets, Trump said that he would ban transgender individuals from serving in the military in any capacity.

Grenell spoke July 27 at the Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton law office on the Embarcadero to a small group at a Log Cabin Republicans California reception.

Grenell, 50, is the longest serving U.S. spokesman at the United Nations and reportedly will be nominated by Trump to be the ambassador to Germany, a position that would make him the highest-ranking gay man in the new administration.

In an interview, and when an asked by an audience member about his opinion of the ban, Grenell brushed over the topic, stating he hadn't read into the matter extensively enough to speak about it, though he admitted it's a complex issue.

"I'm not a military expert or an LGBT activist. I spend all my time on foreign policy issues," said Grenell. "This is a complicated issue. Anyone who thinks there is a simple answer for trans individuals or for the military is kidding themselves."

During the White House press briefing last Wednesday, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the ban was "based on a military decision" and said having transgender people in the military "erodes military readiness and unit cohesion" due to high medical costs.

A 2016 Rand Corporation study commissioned by the Defense Department stated between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender people serve in the military, though some groups put the number higher. The study also concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a "minimal impact" on readiness and health care costs, costing about $8.4 million per year, a fraction of what the Pentagon spends on erectile dysfunction drugs for troops.

Many Democrats and Republicans have publicly denounced the ban including Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Grenell has had an extensive career in politics. He is a regular Fox News contributor and was briefly Mitt Romney's national security and foreign affairs spokesman during his 2012 presidential campaign. Anti-gay right-wingers worked to force Grenell off of Romney's campaign.

A vocal Trump supporter from the beginning of his campaign, Grenell talked about his high opinions of the president and said he is hopeful about the future, both politically and for the LGBTQ community.

"Donald Trump has done more to change the Republican Party's acceptance of the LGBTQ community than any other republican candidate," he said.

Although Grenell stood by the president, the national Log Cabin Republicans released a statement July 26 saying Trump's proposed ban was completely political.

"This smacks of politics, pure and simple," said Gregory T. Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans. "Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn't strengthen it. The president's statement this morning does a disservice to transgender military personnel and reintroduces the same hurtful stereotypes conjured when openly gay men and women were barred from service during the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' era."

Some local Log Cabin members who attended Grenell's speech also came out against the ban, including Jason Clark, a gay man who's chair of the San Francisco Republican Party.

"It doesn't matter if you wear a mustache or a dress," Clark said. "If you are able bodied, willing to fight, and put your life on the line for our country, you should be able to do it."

Clark also added that though he and many, but not all, Log Cabin members have come out against the transgender troop ban, the group locally and nationally will continue to work with the current administration.

"We are one of the only gay groups talking to the administration," Clark, who has been a Log Cabin member for 15 years, said. "We want to work together to make sure LGBTQ rights are respected. Log Cabin worked really hard during the Bush and Obama administrations to abolish 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and we'll continue to work hard."

There was no talk of lobbying against the ban, Clark said, though he can't be for certain on the national level.

Outside the discussion of the transgender ban, Grenell's remarks and question and answer session with the audience touched on everything from liberals' intolerance of differing ideas, putting pressure on China to deescalate North Korea's increasing threat of nuclear attack, Trump's newly appointed White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, and what he said were the media's exaggerations of Trump's presidency blunders. (On Monday, Trump ousted Scaramucci, at the request of new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.)



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