July 26, 2017 at 9:16 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Trump tweets U.S. military ‘will not accept or allow’ trans troops
Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade

President Donald Trump tweeted transgender people won’t be allowed in the U.S.
military. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday the U.S. military “will not accept or allow” transgender people in the armed forces “in any capacity,” citing dubious claims of medical costs and disruptions of allowing them to serve.

“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. “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.”

Trump’s announcement comes after Defense Secretary James Mattis announced he’d push back the target date for allowing openly transgender people to enlist in the armed forces from July 1, 2017 to Jan. 1, 2018, citing a need for additional six-month review of transgender service. It’s unclear why Trump has made the decision to bar transgender troops from the armed forces before the expected completion of this review.

Last year, under the Obama administration, former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter after a year-long review lifted the medical regulation banning transgender people from serving in the armed forces. Although transgender people could come out without fear of discharge, openly transgender people wouldn’t be allowed to enlist until a later time, which Mattis later pushed back.

Trump’s tweets indicate not only a reversal of the delay in allowing transgender enlistments, but a total ban on transgender people in the armed forces. It remains to be seen whether openly transgender people currently in the military will now be forced out.

Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, directed inquiries on implementation of Trump’s transgender military ban 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,” Davis said. “We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future.”

An estimated 15,500 transgender service members are already serving in the armed forces. The RAND Corp. has determined the cost of gender reassignment surgeries for transgender troops would consume between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, which is a tiny fraction of the Pentagon’s multi-billion dollar budget.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, criticized Trump’s decision to reinstate the transgender military ban, marking a contrast from the organization’s general support for the president.

“This smacks of politics, pure and simple,” Angelo said. “The United States military already includes transgender individuals who protect our freedom day in and day out. 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.”

Recalling Log Cabin’s efforts in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Angelo added his organization is “equally committed to standing up for transgender military personnel who put their lives on the line to keep us free.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Trump’s reinstatement of the transgender military ban demonstrates he’s “as unpatriotic as he is unfit to serve as Commander in Chief.”

“This heinous and disgusting action endangers the lives of American service members, undermines military readiness and makes our country less safe,” Griffin said. “It is also the latest effort by Trump and Mike Pence to undo our progress and drag LGBTQ people back into the closet by using our lives as political pawns.”

Will Fischer, an Iraq War veteran and director of government outreach for the anti-Trump group VoteVets, said in a statement Trump’s decision “insults our professional military” and “hurts our ability to win.”

“Maybe Donald Trump’s time at a fake military school has skewed his view of the military,” Fischer said. “But for those of us who have served, transgender service is not a problem. In fact, when it allows the best into our military, it is an asset.”

Matthew Thorn, executive director of the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN, also condemned Trump’s tweets in a statement, suggesting a lawsuit may be underway to undo Trump’s new transgender military ban.

“The readiness, effectiveness, and lethality of the Armed Services comes from the commitment of our troops – not the vagaries and bigotry of exclusionary policies,” Thorn said. “We are committed to transgender service members. We are going to fight for them as hard as they are fighting for the country. And we’re going to start by taking the fight to Donald Trump in the federal court.”

Praising Trump for announcing a ban on transgender people in the armed forces was Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities — and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military.” Perkins said. “The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.”

Trump’s announcement comes after the publication of a Foreign Policy report indicating Vice President Mike Pence, who has a history over his career of opposing LGBT rights, has been quietly working behind the scenes with members of Congress to reverse transgender military service.

Marc Lotter, a Pence spokesperson, however, denied in a statement to the Washington Blade Pence had any talks with lawmakers about the reversing the Obama-era change.

“As I said to that publication, the vice president has been focused on health care,” Lotter said. “I am not aware of him having any conversations with members on that.”

Trump’s announcement also comes shortly after the U.S. House rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) to major defense policy legislation that would have banned the Pentagon from paying for transition-related care for transgender troops. Given their dependence on this health care, the amendment would have effectively banned them from the armed forces.

Before the U.S. House rejected her amendment by a narrow 214-209 vote, Hartzler estimated gender reassignment surgery would cost $1.35 billion over the course of 10 years — a figure wildly higher than estimates from military experts. Trump may have been relying on that dubious estimate when tweeting the military would be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs” of transgender service.

The Family Research Council, which had been pushing for reversal of transgender military service, had cited an even more outlandish figure, estimating transition-related care would cost $3.7 billion over the next 10 years.

After the failure of the Hartzler amendment, Republican lawmakers weren’t giving up. A trio of anti-LGBT lawmakers — Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Steve King (R-Iowa) — submitted new amendments to the House Rules Committee in an attempt to restrict transgender military service as part of the fiscal year 2018 defense appropriations bill.

It remains to be seen whether the House will proceed with those amendments to codify restrictions on transgender military service into law, or whether Trump’s announcement will persuade them to abandon the effort.

Never before has Trump said anything on whether he’d ban transgender military service, although he derided it as “political correctness” in a town hall during his presidential campaign when an attendee brought it up.

Trump makes his announcement on July 26, the same day former President Truman in 1948 issued an executive order desegregating the U.S. military on the basis of race.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Trump and Mattis blather the same old hateful, bigoted excuses as were used against DADT repeal. Diversity must be equated to military weakness for this bigotry to work. But it won’t succeed in the long run.

    They’ve just united and mobilized more Americans to resist their leadership.

    Now we know Mattis is a dishonorable bigot, only too happy to return anti-LGBT prejudice to the United States Armed Forces. Trump’s incompetence continues to erode Americans’ support for the White House– and now, America’s military services.

    Way to go, mad dogs!

  • This is only a consistent pattern of the Fake POTUS! Refuse to support the court case to allow transgender to use the bathroom of choice as pushed by Obama. Refuse to acknowledge that gay men are being forced into concentration camps in Chechnya, refuse to recognize Pride Month, and have Sessions file a court brief stating that GLBT are not protected under existing civil rights laws!

    If you’ve learned anything from this, it’s that Trump is a chronic liar that can NEVER be trusted at his word! He flip flops more than an acrobat and only cares about what is politically expedient for him to keep power! It’s time you wake up and stop supporting the GOP and him and work to oust the GOP Congress that enables his agenda followed by ousting him! Resist and Act up!!!!!

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