Donald Trump Says Transgender People No Longer Allowed To Serve In Military

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military “in any capacity” ― a stunning reversal of an Obama-era policy that affects thousands of service members.

The move, which ironically comes in the middle of the White House’s American Heroes Week, was wholly unexpected. It’s not clear why Trump decided to announce such a significant policy change via Twitter or when it would take effect. His timing in relation to other political events is also odd: He shared the news in the midst of Senate Republicans’ high-stakes fight to repeal Obamacare this week.

Trump claims he made the move after consulting with military experts, despite the Pentagon lifting the ban on transgender service members in 2016 after an exhaustive review of its military readiness policies.

“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. “We have to have access to 100% of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified — and to retain them.”

The biggest question is what the news means for the thousands of transgender men and women currently serving in the military. There are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender people in active military service, a Rand Corp. study estimates. Another group, the Palm Center, put the number as high as 15,500 a few years ago.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders couldn’t give any details later Wednesday when she was asked what will happen to the transgender troops currently serving overseas or when the ban will take effect. During her daily press briefing, she repeatedly said the White House and the Defense Department will work out those specifics.

Asked about Trump’s pledge as a candidate to fight for the LGBTQ community, Sanders said his decision to ban transgender troops was about “military readiness” and that the president “has been very clear he’s committed to fighting for all Americans.” As more questions poured in, Sanders said she would end the briefing if reporters didn’t ask about other topics.

“If those are the only questions we have, we’re going to call it a day,” she said.

The Pentagon has been referring all questions about the change to the White House.

One thing that is clear is that conservatives have been gunning for this change. The right-wing Family Research Council was among the first out with a statement praising Trump for taking the step.

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities ― and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military,” said the group’s president, Tony Perkins. “The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.”

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who unsuccessfully tried to deny hormone therapy and gender transition-related care to transgender troops during debate on a defense spending bill this month, also hailed Trump for being concerned about the cost of providing care to transgender service members.

But those costs are incredibly low: Rand Corp. estimates 30 to 140 people would seek new hormone treatments per year, and 25 to 130 would seek gender transition-related surgeries. That amounts to a 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in the Defense Department’s total health care spending, per Rand.

The American Medical Association has emphasized the medical necessity of mental health care, hormone therapy and gender-transition surgery as forms of therapeutic treatment for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a “serious medical condition” that stems from the distress a person feels when his or her gender identity does not correspond with his or her birth sex. Not all transgender people are diagnosed with gender dysphoria; some don’t experience that distress.

LGBTQ rights groups slammed Trump for making the change solely to appease his conservative base.

“This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country,” said Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project. “The president is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country.”

Gregory Angelo, the president of Log Cabin Republicans, a group that represents LGBTQ conservatives, said Trump’s move “smacks of politics, pure and simple.”

“The United States military already includes transgender individuals who protect our freedom day in and day out,” Angelo said. “Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn’t strengthen it.”

The president’s action completely contradicts his 2016 campaign claims about being better for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans than his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Trump dodged the draft a total of five times, once arguing he couldn’t serve in the U.S. military because of bone spurs in his heels.

This article has been updated with comments from Sarah Sanders’ press briefing and more reactions to the announcement.

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The Los Angeles LGBT Center

&ldquo;All students deserve the dignity of being free from harassment and discrimination, including use of the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identities. Refusing to protect our most vulnerable youth is deplorable and dangerous. This is another clear signal of the Trump administration&rsquo;s intent to rollback protections for LGBT people." --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">Los Angeles LGBT Center </a>Director of Public Policy And Community Building Dave Garcia</i>

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

&ldquo;The withdrawal of this guidance is a devastating step back for transgender students, who today are receiving the message that the federal government will not vigorously defend their right to an education. This unfortunate reversal of protections reflects crass, unprincipled political pandering. The American people support fairness and equal treatment of all students and do not think vulnerable young people should be made pawns of a political drama being played out by the current administration." --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">GLAD</a>'s Transgender Rights Project Director&nbsp;Jennifer L. Levi</i>


&ldquo;Transgender youth face extremely high rates of discrimination and bullying. By rescinding the Department of Education guidance recommending trans students be treated equally under Title IX, the administration is sending an alarming message that it will no longer defend their rights.&nbsp;While this action does not and cannot take away any rights trans students currently have, it undermines the progress we have made towards equality and acceptance.&rdquo; --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">GLAAD</a>&nbsp;President and CEO&nbsp;Sarah Kate Ellis</i>


"While the Trump a<a></a>dministration may abandon transgender students, GLSEN won&rsquo;t. And neither will the thousands of teachers, administrators and parents around the country who work with GLSEN and our local chapters to ensure that transgender students everywhere have the opportunity to simply be themselves and live better lives. Schools, leaders and teachers must do the right thing and give&nbsp;<i>all&nbsp;</i>students the chance in life they deserve." -- <i>Dr. Eliza Byard, <a href="" target="_blank">GLSEN</a>&nbsp;Executive Director</i>

Physicians for Reproductive Health

&ldquo;As an organization that cares deeply about adolescent health, we think it&rsquo;s unacceptable to reverse a guidance that is meant to protect children who already face significant challenges to their well-being. Transgender children are often rejected by their family and peers, harassed, traumatized and abused, and are at a higher risk for depression and suicide. Discouraging or punishing children for expressing their true sense of identity threatens their health and well-being, and schools have a special responsibility to protect all young people, regardless of gender identity or expression." -- <i>Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow at&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl=";q=;source=gmail&amp;ust=1487909251871000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHTij0EG0HckZyxOaezQjym6tgo-A">Physicians for Reproductive Health</a></i>

Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute

&ldquo;In a shameful display of failed leadership, today President Trump succumbed to his extremist advisors and provided permission for schools to discriminate against transgender students. The move &ndash; while abhorrent &ndash; is unfortunately not surprising. Regardless of Trump claiming he would be a friend to LGBT people, the reality is personnel is policy. Trump is surrounding himself with anti-LGBT appointees who demonize our community and reject the notion of civil rights for LGBT people, making anti-LGBT policies almost inevitable." --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">Gay &amp; Lesbian Victory Institute</a>&nbsp;President and CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills</i>

National LGBTQ Task Force

&ldquo;This is an outrageous attack on the most vulnerable in our education system, transgender children. At a time when young people need all the help they can get to reach their full potential, all Trump has to offer is more opportunities to discriminate against them. When every parent of a trans child needs hope and optimism for their families, all the president has to offer is pain and despair.&rdquo; --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">National LGBTQ Task Force</a>&nbsp;Executive Director&nbsp;Rea Carey</i>

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

&ldquo;Revoking the guidance shows that the president&rsquo;s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. But the bottom line is that this does not undo legal protections for trans students, and school districts can and must continue to protect them and all students from discrimination. School districts that recognize that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we&rsquo;ll see them in court. We will continue to fight for the rights and dignity of transgender youth, especially now that the Trump administration has decided to turn its back on them.&rdquo; --<i>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">American Civil Liberties Union</a>&nbsp;LGBT Project Director James Esseks</i>

New York Civil Liberties Union

&ldquo;The Trump administration has made it clear that it will not protect the rights of the transgender community &ndash; one of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. Even as the law remains on the side of transgender students, the administration&rsquo;s new guidance sends them a terrible message about their right to receive an education as the people that they are, and creates national confusion around our civil rights laws that will put countless transgender children&rsquo;s lives and well-being at risk.&rdquo; --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">New York Civil Liberties Union</a> Executive Director Donna Lieberman</i>

Lambda Legal

&ldquo;We all know that Donald Trump is a bully, but his attack on transgender children today is a new low. The U.S. Department of Education&rsquo;s decision to withdraw guidance clarifying the rights of transgender students endangers the well-being and safety of children across the country. Trump&rsquo;s actions do not change the law itself&mdash;transgender students remain protected by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972&mdash;but abandoning the guidance intentionally creates confusion about what federal law requires. The law bars discrimination &ndash; the new administration invites it." --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">Lambda Legal</a>&nbsp;CEO Rachel B. Tiven</i>

Equality Pennsylvania

"Every student should be treated fairly and equally under the law, and protecting transgender students helps ensure that they have the same opportunity as their classmates to fully participate in school. The Trump administration&rsquo;s decision to rescind this guidance has no impact on schools that are already doing the right thing in line with this guidance &ndash; they can, should, and will continue to protect transgender students.That&rsquo;s why revoking this guidance is indicative of the administration&rsquo;s disregard for transgender youth and the many challenges they face. While it may not have a legal impact, it sends an alarming messaging that bullying and harassment are OK." --<i>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Equality Pennsylvania</a>&nbsp;Executive Director Ted Martin</i>

Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)

"The unacceptable repeal of vital transgender protections in public schools by the Trump administration restricts the rights of an entire group of people. In recent years, we have made great strides in increasing social justice for the LGBT community, and this intolerant executive order diminishes that progress. We will continue to make our voices heard to ensure schools remain safe spaces for all children, regardless of the gender they identify with." --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">GMHC</a>&nbsp;CEO Kelsey Louie</i>

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

"Since our founding, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has stood for the principle that every child deserves love, respect, and recognition for who they are. We have advanced this vision for 40 years, and we do not intend to let this administration's irresponsible and cowardly actions get in the way of fighting for our youth. We will not let Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence, two of the most openly anti-LGBT public officials in our nation&rsquo;s history, erase the gains we have made." --&nbsp;<i><a href="" target="_blank">National Center for Lesbian Rights</a>&nbsp;Executive Director Kate Kendell</i>

Equality Florida

&ldquo;This comprehensive guidance put in place by the Obama administration helped provide every student a fair chance to succeed in school and prepare for their future&mdash;including students who are transgender. Schools should be safe places for LGBTQ students who are already at a disproportionate risk for bullying and harassment. Rescinding the guidance yesterday has sent the message to transgender youth that the President of the United States doesn&rsquo;t have their backs.&rdquo; -- <i><a href="" target="_blank">Gina Duncan, Transgender Inclusion Director for Equality Florida</a></i>

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.