The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday denounced the decision by US President Donald Trump to bar transgender people from serving in the military, calling the new policy “deeply objectionable and blatantly discriminatory.”
“It’s a sad day when the President of the United States declares that transgender Americans are unwelcome in the United States military,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO said in statement. “This policy is deeply objectionable – it devalues individual Americans and is blatantly discriminatory. We’ll fight against this unpatriotic ban of transgender troops. We cannot let bigotry stop Americans from serving their country.”
Trump on Wednesday announced on Twitter that transgender people may not serve “in any capacity” in the US military, citing the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” their presence would cause.
The announcement served as a stunning reversal for the US military, which has spent recent months working with the heads of service branches to implement a plan put in place under Barack Obama’s administration to start accepting transgender recruits.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
“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,” he added.
Trump’s announcement Wednesday morning did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.
At the Pentagon, members of the staff of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared to have been caught unaware by Trump’s tweets. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, referred questions to the White House.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers said this was not the right process for such a policy change.
Sen. 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.”
In a statement, McCain said “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.” He said there should be no policy changes until the current review is completed and assessed by the secretary of defense, military leaders and Congress.
Estimates of the number of transgender troops in the military vary widely.
A much-cited study by the Rand Corporation in June 2016 found there are between 1,320 and 6,630 among the 1.3 million active duty service members.
But the Human Rights Campaign civil rights organization said there are currently about 15,000 serving transgender troops.
The RAND study noted that only a small portion of service members would ever seek gender transition that would affect their deployability or health costs, adding between $2.4 million and $8.4 million to the Pentagon’s vast budget.
The issue of transgender rights in America has been increasingly in the spotlight in recent months, especially over how states regulate the use of public restrooms.
The Trump administration faced protests earlier this year after it reversed Obama-era federal protections that urged schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, not the gender on their birth certificate.