Trump’s announcement on Twitter would reverse the effort under President Barack Obama to open the armed services to transgender people. He did not say what would happen to transgender troops already in the military.
The president tweeted that he was making his announcement after consulting with “generals and military experts,” but he did not name any.
He said the 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.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered little clarity about the policy at a press briefing and could not say what would happen to transgender troops currently serving.
Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defence Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban.
Since October 1, they have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.
Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military.
Mattis announced earlier this month that he was giving military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services would affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force.
Already, there are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon’s personnel system.
A Rand Corporation study last year estimated about 2,450 transgender people in active military, out of about 1.3 million troops.
Trump’s decision drew swift outrage from LGBT groups and from lawmakers from both parties.
Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a double amputee veteran of the Iraq War, said that when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, she didn’t care “if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”
Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, which represents the LGBT population in the military, said thousands have been serving in the US armed forces without causing any issues.
“It’s an absolute absurdity and another overstep,” Thorn said. He threatened legal action if Wednesday’s decision is not reversed.
Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the tweet was “another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”
“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.”
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