March 26, 2018 at 11:09 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst breaks with Trump on trans military ban

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Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has broken with Trump on his transgender military ban. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Republican who was the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate has broke from President Trump on his policy seeking to bar transgender people from the U.S. military.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday transgender people who are qualified to be in the U.S. armed forces “should serve.”

“I have asked transgenders myself, if you are willing to lay down your life beside me, I would welcome you into our military,” Ernst said.

The Iowa Republican, however, emphasized transgender people must “meet physical requirements” for being in the military and she’d “support the president and the administration in making sure that standards are met.”

“If there are transgenders that meet those qualifications, certainly I would gladly have them serving in the United States military,” Ernst added.

Asked by CBS News’ Margaret Brennan if she’d call on Trump to change his position, Ernst demurred, but said she’s happy to talk with the administration.

“I think the White House has done a very studied analysis of how we have the best qualified people coming into the military, and so, I’m happy to have those discussions with the administration, but, again, making sure that those standards are applied fairly across the spectrum of every citizen that wants to join our United States military,” Ernst said.

Ernst has indicated before she supports allowing transgender people to serve in the military, but has declined to support payment for gender reassignment surgery as part of the U.S. military health plan. Her views were incorporated in a full-page newspaper ad and TV ad from the Human Rights Campaign this year showcasing bipartisan for transgender military service.

The first-term senator makes the remarks days after Trump announced he’d keep his ban on transgender service in the military following a report signed by Defense Secretary James Mattis recommending limited access to transgender people in the armed forces.

Watch the video here. The exchange begins at 4:08.

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

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