Military veterans, young and old, and their families gathered at the steps of Portland’s City Hall Sunday afternoon to stand in opposition of President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in all branches of the Armed Forces.
The rally to honor transgender service members and veterans was quickly organized after Friday’s executive order, which was a follow up to the president’s July 26 tweet.
Information about the rally was shared through the Basic Rights Oregon’s Facebook page and other social media.
In the heat and sunshine, a group of 130 men and women stood tall, shoulders back, heads high, and listened to the speakers.
Trump’s announcement Wednesday morning on Twitter did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.
Transwoman Lyles McFarland of Portland, an Air Force veteran, spoke early in the event since she was the maid of honor – her first time – at a friend’s wedding that afternoon. Drawing back her long, rainbow colored hair, she spoke decisively: "The military is the last frontier," she said. "If we’re not supported, civilians will not be."
The rally goers wore purple camo T-shirts and khaki shorts. Shaking homemade signs and proudly waving American flags, they whooped when a speaker mentioned the branch of service in which they served.
Organizer Chase Doremus, a third generation veteran and a transgender justice trainer, says his family and the military taught him to stand up for what he believes in.
In the shadow of a Liberty Bell replica, Nancy Haque of Basic Rights Oregon said: "Our military and our government should never be used to discriminate."
She added that an estimated 15,000 transgender Americans currently serve in the military, "putting their lives on the line."
The loudest applause came when Mat dos Santos, legal director for the ACLU Oregon, declared: "See you in court, Mr. President."
At exactly 1:30, a half hour after it began, the event ended with military precision. The group relaxed their stance, and some hugged.
— Janet Eastman
Multnomah County will open three cooling centers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Board games and movies will be available to help pass the time. Pets and children are welcome.
File photo: Portland fire crews respond to a fire. Mark Graves/Staff