WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday via Twitter that he will ban transgender people from U.S. military service of any capacity, citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
The decision reverses an Obama-era policy and comes after Trump campaigned as a champion of the LGBT community.
White House officials could not speak to an implementation blueprint or say what the directive will mean for the thousands of openly transgender people currently serving in the armed forces.
Trump unveiled his position in three morning 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,” he posted. “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.”
Between 2,200 and 11,000 transgender people are on active duty or in the reserves, according to a 2016 Rand Corporation study commissioned by the Department of Defense. Only a subset seek gender transition–related treatment and related health costs are “relatively low,” it found.
Last year, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the gradual opening of military ranks to transgender people.
Last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis delayed for six months further enlisting of transgender people in order to review the lifting of the ban.
The Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT advocacy group, condemned Trump’s approach after commending him during the 2016 election.
“This smacks of politics, pure and simple,” president Gregory T. 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.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Trump’s directive “unclear” and blasted the president for unveiling it on Twitter.
“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,” the former prisoner of war said.
“This new directive is harmful, misguided, and weakens — not strengthens — our military,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), vowing legislation to “overturn this discriminatory decision.”
But Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who has proposed blocking military funding for transition-related surgeries and hormone therapy treatments, lauded Trump’s directive as in the “best interests” of the armed forces.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the implementation will be something that the White House and Department of Defense will “work together to lawfully determine.”
The Pentagon referred all questions to the White House.
Trump during last year’s campaign repeatedly declared himself an ally to LGBT Americans. He tweeted in June 2016, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”
Sanders said Trump “wants to protect all Americans at all times” but concluded that permitting openly transgendered troops “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.”
Also Wednesday, Trump showed no signs of relenting in his criticism of his attorney general, asking in tweets why Jeff Sessions hasn’t replaced Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Sessions was at the White House on Wednesday for meetings but not with the president, Sanders said.
“He can be disappointed in someone but still want them to continue to do their job,” Sanders said of Trump and Sessions. “And that’s where they are.”