July 26 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his government will not “accept or allow” transgender people to serve in the U.S. military, “in any capacity.”
Trump made the remarks in a series of posts on Twitter.
“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 U.S. military,” the president wrote. “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. Thank you.”
The comments come after the U.S. Department of Defense in late June announced a delay in allowing transgender people to join the military.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis had previously announced a six-month review, to begin July 1, in which he would work with service chiefs and secretaries to evaluate the prospect of allowing transgender people to enlist.
In a memo announcing the delay, Mattis said his “intent is to ensure that I personally have the benefit of the views of the military leadership and of the senior civilian officials who are now arriving” in the Pentagon over the matter.
“I am confident we will continue to treat all service members with dignity and respect,” Mattis wrote.
Several politicians and LGBT groups were quick to criticize Trump’s statement.
“Mr. President, transgender soldiers have been fighting and dying for our country IN OUR MILITARY. You should thank them for their service,” Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., wrote on Twitter.
“To the members of the transgender community: You are not a ‘burden.’ Do not let this president shake you. We support you, we stand with you,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez wrote on Twitter.
The National Center for Transgender Equality said Trump made an “egregious attack” against transgender service members, estimating about 15,000 transgender people serve in the U.S. armed services.
“This is worse than don’t ask don’t tell, this is don’t serve, don’t serve. This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand,” the center said in a statement. “The president wants to discard thousands of trained and skilled troops who are already serving honorably and done nothing but be honest about who they are. To turn away qualified recruits simply because of who they are is shameful way imaginable to show our country’s gratitude to the people who serve our country.”
Trump’s suggested ban on transgender people serving in the military counters a previous statement he made during the U.S. presidential campaign.
“Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” Trump tweeted about opponent Hillary Clinton on June 14, 2016.