WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has banned transgender individuals from serving in the military, reversing a policy put in place by his predecessor’s administration.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “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.”
Last year, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter shifted policy to allow for transgender individuals to serve in the military, but Trump’s administration put that change on hold.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, reacted swiftly, writing on Twitter, “I know service members and vets who have done more to serve their country than @realdonaldtrump has in his entire life.”
The Human Rights Campaign called the announcement “shameful” and noted that “threatening 15K currently serving troops who put their lives at risk is unpatriotic and dangerous.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump had pitched himself as a greater defender of the LGBT community than his rival, Hillary Clinton.
“Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” he wrote on June 14, 2016.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement, “President Trump today issued a direct attack on transgender Americans, and his administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation.”
Trump’s announcement surprised many, as Defense Secretary James Mattis had indicated that the Pentagon would be reviewing the policy this year and studying its impact.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Trump’s announcement.
“The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter,” McCain said in a statement.
He also said that the statement from Trump was “unclear,” noting that the Defense Department has “already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today.”
“Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” McCain said. “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.”
Update: At the White House press briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “This was a military decision. This was about military readiness. This was about unit cohesion. This was about resources within the military.”
Having been asked multiple questions about the transgender ban, she then asked for questions on other topics. She said that if those were the only questions the press corps had, “I’ll call it a day.”
She said that the White House and Department of Defense will have to work out what happens with transgender members of the military who are currently serving.