U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that transgender individuals won’t be allowed to serve in the country’s military. He said the decision came after consultations with military experts and generals.
Trump justified the decision saying the military must be “focused on decisive and overwhelming victory” and transgender individuals would add “tremendous medical costs.” He did not elaborate on what the costs would be.
Last year in June, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.
“This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force,” Carter said in a statement at the time. “They can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.”
Carter’s decision allowed transgender troops to receive medical care and change their gender in the Pentagon’s personnel system.
But Carter also gave the services until July 1, 2017 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military. Transgender individuals would have to meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months.
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The president’s announcement comes weeks after current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asked for a six-month delay in enforcing Carter’s decision.
Pentagon spokeman Jeff Davis issued a statement referring all questions about the announcement to the White House.
“We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military,” the statement read.
While the Pentagon has refused to disclose how many transgender individuals serve on the military, a Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.
Trump’s move to ban transgender individuals from the army was widely criticized by prominent figures online.
Transgender “Orange is the New Black” star and LGBT activist Laverne Cox fired back at the President’s decision in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “I have met many transgender Americans over the years who have served or are currently serving our country in the military,” she wrote. “I have heard from them humiliating stories of being misgendered and experiencing various kinds of mistreatment when they are willing to put their lives on the line in ways many of us would never do including our current President.”
“This latest reversal of another Obama administration policy continues to send the message to trans Americans that our lives, our safety and service are less valuable and unwanted in this country, the country I love and hold so dear,” Cox continued. “Let’s all come together and send the message to trans Americans that despite what this president and administration proclaims that trans lives, safety and service are valuable, that they matter.”
Other stars also voiced their dismay on Twitter.
LGBT Caucus, a group of openly gay Congress members, defended transgender soldiers on Twitter.
LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD issued a statement calling the president’s decision a “direct attack on transgender Americans.”
“Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation,” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in the release.
“Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has revoked rights that Barack Obama instituted for transgender individuals. In February, the president scrapped guidelines that allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms that corresponded to their gender identity.
— With files from The Associated Press