Donald Trump

NY Lawmakers Blast Trump Directive on Transgender People in Military: ‘Giant Slide Backwards'

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended a ban

What to Know

  • President Trump announced via Twitter that transgender people will be banned from the U.S. military, sparking outrage
  • Tri-state Democrats, including Sens. Gillibrand and Booker, blasted the announcement and said they'd introduce legislation to stop it
  • Meanwhile, more than a dozen organizations planned a rally for Wednesday evening in Times Square

President Trump's declaration Wednesday morning that transgender people will be banned from the U.S. military has incited fury in New York as lawmakers and elected officials blasted the directive as discriminatory and "a giant slide backwards in the fight for equal rights." 

Trump tweeted that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military "in any capacity," saying they would cause "tremendous medical costs and disruption." 

Reaction was quick and furious. More than a dozen organizations, including Equality New York, GLAAD and the New York Civil Liberties Union, banded together to plan a rally in Times Square Wednesday evening as elected officials denounced Trump's announcement. 

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who serves on the Armed Services committe and who led the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Dont Tell," issued a swift rebuke. 

“This morning transgender service members put on their uniform and showed up for their military duties to be told by their Commander in Chief via Twitter that he doesn’t want them in ‘any capacity,'" Gillibrand said. "These service members are willing to die for their country, and this is an insult to their brave and honorable service. This new directive is harmful, misguided, and weakens – not strengthens – our military."

Gillibrand said she will introduce legislation to overturn the ban. 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said transgender Americans "are serving honorably in our military. We stand with these patriots."

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay member of Congress from New York who represents Orange, Putnam and parts of Westchester and Dutchess, said, "Anyone who doubts the lethality of our trans service members should say that to Kristin Beck's face -- she's a transgender member of SEAL Team 6, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient. Anyone who doubts their abilities should tell Shane Ortega, who ran over 400 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Transgender people have served well and honorably and any suggestion otherwise is just prejudice." 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, blasted Trump's directive as "wrong, intolerant and a giant slide backwards in the fight for equal rights."

"Valor knows no race, no creed, no gender, and no sexual identity, period," he said. 

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker praised transgender people in the military, and said in a statement, "This decision is particularly galling coming from a President who actively avoided military service through five draft deferments and believes that the word ‘sacrifice’ means trying to make money. Mr. President, trans military members have sacrificed far more than you ever have – or will."

Like Gillibrand, Booker said he will introduce legislation to reverse the ban and uphold a policy established last year that allows transgender service members to serve openly and to not face discharge from the military solely for being transgender individuals.

In a statement, Mayor de Blasio called the ban "fundamentally un-American and unconscionable," and said, "There is no doubt that our military is only made more mighty when it embraces the inclusivity and diversity at the bedrock of our nation."

"The United States should be leading the way on inclusivity and diversity, not running away from it," the mayor said.

Phil Murphy, a Democrat running for New Jersey governor, said in a statement, "President Trump's decision to strip rights from active duty military personnel who have been serving honestly and openly for more than a year is simply disgusting." 

"Because of this hateful action, up to 15,000 members of the United States Military are now left wondering whether or not they will be dishonorably discharged due to nothing more than being open about who they are," Murphy's statement read.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Jennifer Long called Trump’s announcement personal. She served in the military for nearly three decades before getting quietly pushed out after she transitioned and changed her name to Jennifer.

“It causes a lot of emotional distress,” Long said. “You just want to get up in the morning and do your job. You’ve been doing it for years with honor. Now you just want to have that one less thing and serve openly and be who you are.”

Transgender people have been able to serve openly in the military since June 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended a ban. Trump had tweeted at the time, during the presidential campaign, that he would fight for the LGBT community. 

His announcement on Wednesday did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military. 

There are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon's personnel system, according to several defense officials. 

The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops. A RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves. 

Republican John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Trump's tweet "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," he said in a statement. "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."

McCain added that no new policy decision would be appropriate until a Defense Department study is complete and vowed Senate oversight on the issue.

Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon's personnel system. 

But Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months.

On the eve of the deadline, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced a delay on allowing transgender people from enlisting, giving the armed forces another six months to study the issue.  

Key concerns include whether currently enlisted troops have had medical or other issues that cause delays or problems with their ability to deploy or meet physical or other standards for their jobs. Military leaders also wanted to review how transgender troops are treated, if they're discriminated against or if they have had disciplinary problems, the officials said. They were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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