President Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity.”
The tweets cite “tremendous medical costs and disruption” as the reason for the ban.
Current transgender service members have been able to openly serve since last year, although Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently delayed opening enlistments to new transgender individuals. The delay was intended to give officials more time to understand the effects of a policy change.
There are between 1,300 and 6,600 transgender members active in the military and another 1,500 in the reserves, according to a 2016 RAND study.
The ban is already getting pushback. The LGBT military advocacy group OutServe-SLDN said it is going to sue Trump.
“He can’t make an executive order via tweet,” said interim executive director Matt Thorn. “If he puts his actions to paper, we would take him to court.”
UPDATE: Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement in response:
The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.
The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. 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. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.
The Department of Defense is currently conducting a study on the medical obligations it would incur, the impact on military readiness, and related questions associated with the accession of transgender individuals who are not currently serving in uniform and wish to join the military. I do not believe that any new policy decision is appropriate until that study is complete and thoroughly reviewed by the Secretary of Defense, our military leadership, and the Congress.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to follow closely and conduct oversight on the issue of transgender individuals serving in the military.