President Donald Trump announced Wednesday a ban on transgender people serving in the military, reversing U.S. policy in a series of tweets.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you,” Trump wrote in a trio of consecutive tweets.
The abrupt policy shift will affect thousands of transgender troops in the military.
Trump’s announcement came just over one year after former President Barack Obama’s then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted a ban on transgender military service — a move that allowed active-duty troops to come out of the closet as transgender people.
In the year since the ban was repealed, roughly 250 service members have applied to change their gender in the military’s personnel system, Pentagon officials told the Associated Press in June.
Trump’s tweets Wednesday also came more than an hour before the Defense Department released its own brief statement on the matter, in which it referred “all questions about the President’s statements to the White House.”
“We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said. “We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future.”
The Department of Defense website’s still reflects information about the policy change implemented by Carter in 2016.
At the time, Carter had set a July 1, 2017, deadline for the military to begin enlisting new transgender service members, but the agency did not meet that target date.
In June, the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps met with the Trump administration’s Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, to negotiate a six-month extension to the original July 1 deadline.
According to a RAND research study released in 2016, there were estimated to 1,320 to 6,630 active transgender service members before the ban was lifted last year — and another approximately 1,500 on reserve.
The Human Rights Campaign, a prominent gay rights group, has estimated that there are more than 15,000 active serving transgender troops.
Lawmakers — including Republicans — blasted Trump’s sudden policy reversal.
“No American, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be prohibited from honor + privilege of serving our nation #LGBT,” tweeted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who has a transgender son and is retiring from Congress next year.
Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay conservatives, slammed Trump’s move, saying it “smacks of politics, pure and simple.”
“Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn’t strengthen it,” the group’s president, Gregory T. Angelo, said. Trump’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,” he added.
“Astonishing @realDonaldTrump ever claimed to be ‘friend’ to LGBT people. #transgender soldiers deserve thanks, not arbitrary expulsion,” the LGBT congressional caucus tweeted.
“Transgender Americans are serving honorably in our military. We stand with these patriots,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she would “introduce legislation and will fight to overturn this discriminatory decision,” while Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., took issue with Trump using Twitter to make sure an important announcement, slamming the president for “making national security policy by tweet.”
Carter, the former defense secretary, also weighed in, saying that “to choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military.”
“Quality people in uniform are what make our military the finest fighting force the world has ever seen,” Carter added. “I continue to maintain that what matters in choosing those who serve is that they are best qualified.”
Advocacy groups slammed the policy change and legal action was possible.
“There is no basis for turning trans people away from our military and the ACLU is examining all of our options on how to fight this,” Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’sLGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.
“If you are a trans service member or reservist please contact me,” Block added in a tweet.
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) dubbed Trump’s announcement “pseudo-policy-by-Twitter” that showed “blatant disregard for transgender service members who have been serving openly since October 2016.”
Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, a policy think tank, called the announcement “a shocking and ignorant attack on our military and on transgender troops who have been serving honorably and effectively for the past year.”
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly painted himself as a friend to the LGBT community.
He took a message of LGBTQ tolerance and support to the Republican convention, promising after the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., to protect LGBTQ citizens “from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”
When the convention floor applauded, he said: “As a Republican, I’m so happy to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
In addition, Trump told a crowd in Houston, Texas, in June 2016 that he would be “far better for gays” than Hillary Clinton.
In Dallas that same month, Trump declared: “LGBT is starting to like Donald Trump very much lately.”
His White House, however, didn’t acknowledge LGBTQ Pride Month in 2017, which was recognized by the White House every year that Obama was in office.
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