President Donald Trump directed the military Friday to reinstate its ban on admitting transgender individuals and fully implement the longstanding policy that former President Barack Obama had reversed near the end of his administration.
The Obama administration lifted the transgender ban in 2016, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter saying at the time that there are an estimated 2500 active duty service members who are transgender. In a directive issued to the Department of Defense, the president ordered the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to refrain from recruiting transgender individuals and cease allocating military funds to cover sexual reassignment surgeries for transitioning service members, unless they had already begun medical procedures.
Although he is dismantling the Obama-era policy allowing new openly transgender recruits to serve in the U.S. military, Trump said in his directive that he will permit the secretaries to use their discretion in deciding how to handle the transgender service members who are already serving.
"In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments' longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year's policy change would not have those negative effects," Trump said in the directive.
"The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted," Trump said, adding that they may advise him "as to what steps are appropriate and consistent with military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints, and applicable law."
Trump's Friday directive arrived nearly a month after he first announced his administration's transgender policy in a series of three tweets in late July.
"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. 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," Trump tweeted on July 26.
Trump's July announcement incurred the ire of LGBT Americans and their advocates, and his Friday announcement was met with renewed backlash, as well. But one of Trump's top officials told CNN that the president has not reneged on his promise to stand for LGBT Americans and that his directive does not constitute discrimination.
"The President is the President for all Americans, and during last year's campaign he was the first GOP nominee to talk about LGBTQ issues at the GOP convention, but he also was critical of the Obama administration's change in that longstanding DOD policy," the official told CNN. "He's going to continue to ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ community, as well as all Americans, is protected ... This policy is based on a series of national security considerations."
In his weekly address Friday, the president praised the patriotic men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, saying that "every person who puts on the uniform makes our nation proud."
"They all come from across our land. They represent every race, ethnicity, and creed. But they all pledge the same oath, fight for the same cause, and operate as one team - with one shared sense of purpose," Trump said.
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Pete Thibodeau)