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26 Jul 2017

US military will not allow transgender people to serve - Donald Trump

Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not allow transgender individuals to serve in the US military in any capacity, reversing a policy put in place by Barack Obama a year ago.

The US president tweeted: “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 US military.”

He added: “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 decision marks a sharp reversal of a policy initiated under Obama in 2016, in which the Pentagon ended a longtime ban on trans people serving openly in the military.

The Pentagon appeared to be caught off guard by Trump’s announcement, and deferred to the White House when reached for comment.

“We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander-in-chief on trans individuals serving the military,” a spokesperson for the defense department said. “We will provide revised guidance to the department in the near future.”

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Under Obama, then defense secretary Ashton Carter announced on 30 June 2016 that any trans person already in the armed forces could serve openly “effective immediately”.

Backlash to Trump’s decision was swift, and transcended party lines.

Carter told the Guardian: “What matters in choosing those who serve is that they are best qualified.

“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military. There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably. This action would also send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service.”

Arizona senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate armed services committee, said: “The president’s tweet this morning is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”

He added: “Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. 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.”

Several studies had already found that reversing the ban was unlikely to have a negative impact on the military.

A 2016 study by the Rand Corporation estimated there are up to 6,630 trans people on active duty and up to 4,160 in the select reserve. There are roughly 1.4 million active-duty US service members.

The same study estimated that medical care for individuals who transition would cost roughly $2.4-$4m annually. Every year, the Pentagon spends approximately $6bn on medical care for active members of the armed forces.

Trump’s decision comes after the Pentagon recently delayed a deadline set by the Obama administration of 1 July 2017 to decide whether incoming recruits who openly identified as trans could enlist.

Last month, defense secretary James Mattis outlined the six-month delay on trans recruitment in an internal memo, in which he wrote: “We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.”

The delay was negotiated after the chiefs of the army, navy, air force and marine corps requested more time to prepare for the recruitment of transgender service members. Reports have suggested the joint chiefs asked for an additional six months, while others wanted another two years. But there was no public indication that the joint chiefs were seeking an outright ban.

Mattis was on vacation at the time of Trump’s announcement, signaling a lack of coordination between the White House and the relevant agencies.
An administration official fueled speculation over the president’s motives by suggesting that the shift was a political ploy that would force Democrats facing re-election in states won by Trump into complex culture wars.

As a candidate, Trump cast himself as a supporter of LGBT rights and indicated he would uphold certain Obama-era policies designed to protect transgender people. But upon taking office, he rescinded his predecessor’s guidance requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

The president lifted the guidance in February, despite saying during his campaign that trans people should use “whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate”.

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Trump’s decision on Wednesday came on the anniversary of Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order desegregating the US military.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, condemned Trump for “a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country”.

Pelosi said: “This morning’s tweets reveal a president with no loyalty to the courageous men and women in uniform who risk their lives to defend our freedoms. This disgusting ban will weaken our military and the nation it defends.

“Once again, President Trump has shown his conduct is driven not by honor, decency, or national security, but by raw prejudice. This is a dark day for thousands of heroes in our military and for our entire country.”

Congressman Ruben Gallego, a Democrat from Arizona and an Iraq war veteran, said the ban was “discriminatory and bad national security policy”.

In a series of tweets, Gallego said Trump “will never understand complex military needs” and “doesn’t have the experience or intellectual capacity to learn”.

Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth, who lost both her legs on duty in Iraq, also chastised Trump. “When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I 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.”

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives voted down a measure that would have restricted funding for trans members of the military. The amendment would have prevented the defense department from providing medical treatment “related to gender transition” to service members, with an exception for mental health treatment.

Although the measure passed a House committee on a party line vote, it failed on the House floor on a 209-214 vote. Twenty-four Republicans banded together with Democrats to kill the proposal.

The author of the proposal, Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, celebrated Trump’s decision on Wednesday. “I’m glad to hear the president will be changing this costly and damaging policy,” she said. “Military service is a privilege, not a right.”

Kristin Beck, a retired member of the famed Navy Seal Team 6, which carried out the raid the killed Osama bin Laden, spoke out against Trump’s announcement as an openly transgender woman.

“I was defending individual liberty,” she told Business Insider. “I defended for Republicans. I defended for Democrats. I defended for everyone.”

Beck included a message for the president: “Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy.”

#theguardian

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