Trump Puts Focus on Social Issues with Shock Trans Ban

President takes Pentagon, GOP lawmakers by surprise with sudden Twitter rollout of new military policy

President Donald Trump said he would ban transgender individuals from serving in the military, following a failure in the Republican-led Congress to ban paying for sex-change operations for soldiers.

Trump made the announcement on Twitter, and it was quickly hailed by many social conservatives as a victory.

“Having sex changes paid for by the taxpayers and military has nothing to do with the military’s mission,” said Walker Wildmon, assistant to the president of the American Family Association, speaking to LifeZette Wednesday morning.

[lz_ndn video=32744765]

Conservative groups had opposed the Obama administration’s decision, and said it was costly to taxpayers while doing nothing to advance the military’s readiness.

“It’s unnecessary,” Wildmon said.

Do you support individual military members being able to opt out of getting the COVID vaccine?

By completing the poll, you agree to receive emails from LifeZette, occasional offers from our partners and that you've read and agree to our privacy policy and legal statement.

But the clunky social media rollout contributed to a fractured response from Republican lawmakers and the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis was on vacation when the decision was announced, and a Pentagon official suggested to the Washington Examiner they had no idea the president’s announcement was coming.

“I think the reports are pretty accurate that no one knew,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Examiner. “I certainly had no idea.”

The Pentagon spokesman referred further questions to the White House.

Even conservative lawmakers, given no advance warning or full briefing on the new policy, were driven to react with skepticism.

Staunch conservative Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) suggested he would oppose the ban.

“I think you ought to treat everybody fairly, and you ought to give everybody a chance to serve,” Shelby told CNN Wednesday.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) , a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, also seemed to distance himself from the announcement.

“America needs a military comprised of patriots willing to sacrifice for this country,” Buck, who represents Weld County and the Eastern Plains, said in a written statement to The Denver Post. “Any American who is physically and emotionally qualified should be allowed to serve.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the longest serving member of the chamber, said in a statement Wednesday the nation should not “be discriminating against anyone.”

“I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone. Transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them,” the Senate pro tempore added.

“I look forward to getting much more information and clarity from our military leaders about the policy the President tweeted today,” Hatch continued in the statement.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), an active duty service veteran, said she agreed with not paying for sex realignment surgery, but would not support a ban on transgender service.

“She believes what is most important is making sure service members can meet the physical training standards, and the willingness to defend our freedoms and way of life,” a spokesperson for Ernst told the Des Moines Register, “while she believes taxpayers shouldn’t cover the costs associated with a gender reassignment surgery, Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a moderate and frequent Trump critic, more predictably hammered the president for the clunky release.

“Major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter,” said McCain, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The statement was unclear,” McCain continued in a statement. “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.”

Two weeks ago, the Republican-led House failed to instruct the Pentagon against spending money for surgery on transgender troops. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) said it would save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years, according to USA Today.

Trump apparently thought it was too much for the Pentagon to juggle as it tried to secure the nation and manage various global missions.

“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 said in a series of three tweets on Wednesday morning. “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 issue is sure to cause controversy beyond Congress. When President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, first broached the idea of gays in the military, it kicked off a long and contentious debate about how the role of military should be exempt from social experiments.

Clinton eventually compromised with Pentagon skeptics, by coming up with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. That meant recruiters could not ask about sexual orientation, and soldiers were supposed to keep gay proclivities to themselves.

President Barack Obama, sensing the growing strength of the gay rights movement, completely repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, and allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

In 2016, Obama expanded the policy to include transgender soldiers. The Obama policy allowed transgender service members currently on duty to immediately serve openly, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Pentagon was instructed to come up with medical and training plans for full implementation on July 1. The Trump administration pushed that date back, according to The Times, and the policy is now discarded.

(photo credit, homepage image: AnemoneProjectors, Flickr; photo credit, article image: mindfrieze, Flickr)

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

Join the Discussion

Comments are currently closed.