This morning, President Trump took to Twitter and announced that after consultation with ‘Generals and military experts,’ that transgender persons would not be allowed to serve in the military in any capacity. This policy reversal, announced via social media took members of Congress and Pentagon leadership by surprise.
Last year, the Pentagon lifted a ban on transgender men and women from serving in the military under the leadership of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, during the last year of the Obama Administration.
Today’s Tweets are in direct conflict with his promises to the LGBT community made during the campaign that he was better for the LGBT community than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In addition, the claims that Trump made regarding “tremendous medical costs” associated with transgender service members has been roundly dismissed as according the Virginia Pilot, the Pentagon spends five times as much on Viagra each year.
Local Leaders React
Michael Berlucchi, President of Hampton Roads Pride issued the following statement,
“All people have something unique to offer in the service of their country and should be afforded an equal opportunity to do so. Many thousands of people who are transgender currently serve the U.S. military openly and honorably; a policy that would prevent people who are transgender from serving their country would be damaging to military readiness, human dignity, and equality.
Contrary to being a “disruption,” allowing the most number of qualified individuals to serve, including those who identify as transgender, is a force multiplier. Transgender service members place their lives on the line in service of the United States every day. They deserve our respect, appreciation, and support.”
In addition, Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA 2nd District) issued the following statement this afternoon, “Our office is currently waiting for the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide information requested on this issue. I am troubled that they seemed to be unaware of this potential policy change and how it was made public. I understand the DoD is in the middle of a review of relevant policies and I believe this ban is premature. There are heroic military members willing to put their lives on the line and give the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, regardless of their gender identity. I support the ability for those who meet all military requirements, medical and otherwise, to have the opportunity to serve our great country. I recently supported the Hartzler amendment on the basis of individual medical readiness, which should always be a priority for the military. Readiness is crucial for us to continue to have the most highly capable fighting force in the world.”
Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA 3rd District) released the following message,
“This morning, the country woke up to the news that President Trump unilaterally plans to bar the service of transgender persons in our nation’s military. This announcement places the estimated 15,000 transgender Americans who are currently serving our country at risk of being discharged. President Trump’s action undermines morale and further devalues the service and sacrifice of the more than 130,000 transgender veterans alive today.
“I proudly represent a district that is home to tens of thousands of individuals who currently serve or who have served in our nation’s military. And just this past weekend, the Hampton Roads region was honored to have President Trump at Naval Station Norfolk to commission the new U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, where he was surrounded by diverse servicemen and women who work together as a unit for the defense of our nation.
“However, I hope the President realizes that our military did not get to reflect our nation’s remarkable diversity by accident. Exactly 69 years ago today, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 to desegregate the military. Likewise, in 2010, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals to openly serve in our military. And in 2013, the Obama Administration moved to lift the ban prohibiting women from serving in combat.
“We know that this expansion of opportunity to serve did not eliminate all of the challenges many of our service members face overnight. But what is clear is that the closing of opportunities for any person, who wants to serve our nation in uniform, on account of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity is a giant step backwards for both the nation and our military. President Trump’s actions undermine the very bedrock of the principles of freedom that those who serve our nation in uniform defend.”
While President Trump is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the official policy has not been changed at the time of writing. It also remains to be seen how this policy reversal will impact transgender troops already serving. This story continues to develop.
For additional coverage, visit the Virginia Pilot.