In a move the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has labelled “outrageous and desperate”, Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets on Wednesday that he is banning transgender people from serving “in any capacity” in the US military.
"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," 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. Thank you.”
There are currently an estimated 10,000 transgender people serving in the military and 134,000 transgender veterans.
In 2016, under President Obama, the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military was overturned, with a 12 month review period enabling the Pentagon to work out the implementation of the plan.
Last month Trump’s Defense Secretary released a statement saying that he needed more time to assess the policy change.
A 2016 Rand Corporation Study commissioned by The Department Of Defense found that the costs of medical care for transgender recruits serving openly and the impact to “unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness” would be minimal, with very few transgender personnel opting for medical treatment which would disrupt their ability to deploy.
The study found there would be approximately a 0.04 per cent to 0.13 per cent increase in healthcare spending on active military personnel.
Contradicting the study, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the ban on Wednesday, telling reporters “This is a very expensive and disruptive policy and based on consultation that he’s had with his national security team, he came to the conclusion that is erodes military readiness and unit cohesion and made the decision based on that.”
The White House is insisting that this was a military decision, however The New York Times reports that Trump made the snap decision in the last few days and notified the secretary of defense on Tuesday.
The White House currently has no plan for how the implementation of the ban will affect active personnel.
LGBT advocacy groups and lawyers have condemned the ban, with legal challenges expected.
Jon Davidson from LGBT rights group Lambda Legal said "There's no valid justification for excluding transgender people from the military. They are currently serving without a problem. There hasn't been an extraordinary cost. There hasn't been disruption."
ACLU Attorney Joshua Block said of Trump’s decision, “This is an outrageous and desperate action. The thousands of transgender service members serving on the front lines for this country deserve better than a commander-in-chief who rejects their basic humanity."
"Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country."
It’s an absolute absurdity and another overstep,” said Matt Thorn of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the military.
The National Center for Transgender Equality said in a statement “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.”
Humans Rights Watch said in a statement “The President’s claim on Twitter that this is about saving money on medical costs is laughable. No qualified, capable person should be turned away from service solely because of who they are.”
Protests broke out in New York City and Washington D.C on Wednesday night, with further protests being organised around the country.