Trump to ban transgender people from US military

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Fri, Jul 28, 2017 - Page 1

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he would ban transgender people from the US military.

The surprise announcement drew condemnation from rights groups and some lawmakers in both parties as politically motivated discrimination, but was praised by conservative activists and some Republicans.

The US administration has not determined whether transgender people already serving in the military would be immediately thrown out, a point the White House and the US Department of Defense have yet to decide, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

“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, without naming any of the generals or experts.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail,” he said.

“This was about military readiness,” Sanders told a briefing. “This was about unit cohesion. This was about resources within the military, and nothing more.”

His action unleashed a torrent of legal threats from civil liberties advocates seeking plaintiffs willing to challenge the ban in court and sparked a protest by hundreds who rallied outside an armed forces recruiting station in New York City’s Times Square.

Trump’s tweet caught some White House officials by surprise.

A senior administration official said Trump had been determined to act for a while, but the question was the timing, with advisers split on whether to conduct reviews before announcing the move.

The announcement at least temporarily changed the subject in Washington, where Trump’s administration faces investigations into his presidential campaign’s contacts with Russia and has struggled to win major legislative victories.

There are already about 2,500 active-duty transgender personnel, with about 1,500 more in the military reserves, according to a study by think tank RAND Corporation cited last year by former US secretary of defense Ashton Carter.

Advocacy groups said Trump’s policy was open to legal challenge under the US Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The House of Representatives’ top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, said that a Pentagon-commissioned study determined the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care involving transgender service members would amount to about one-100th of 1 percent of the military’s healthcare budget.