WASHINGTON – President Trump announced a sweeping policy change on Twitter Wednesday, saying he will ban transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity, a reversal from an Obama administration-era decision.
Yet even hours after the series of tweets, the White House admitted numerous questions remain unanswered, specifically in terms of what happens to active transgender service men and women currently serving overseas.
“That’s something the Department of Defense and the White House will work together as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday afternoon.
The president and administration argue that allowing transgender Americans to openly serve erodes military readiness, calling the Obama decision expensive and disruptive.
“What I hear from our currently serving troops abroad and here at home, this issue is a distraction from them doing their job,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said.
Banks, a freshman congressman is a Navy Reservist, and the most recent member of Congress to serve overseas in Afghanistan. Banks served overseas just before the Obama policy was implemented.
“For far too long during the Obama administration, the military became too much of a social experiment,” Banks said. “And this was one of example of that, of allowing transgender troops to serve.”
Other lawmakers on Capitol Hill, though including a number of Republicans, are voicing concerns including Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“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,” McCain said in a statement.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) who serves with McCain on the Armed Services Committee said he anticipates the committee to review and scrutinize the move.
“We have thousands of transgender friends and neighbors serving right now, many of them who are Hoosiers,” Donnelly said. “They are serving and putting their lives out there for us, and we are grateful for their service.”
Advocates of transgender Hoosiers quickly condemned the move, criticizing the current administration's approach and accusing supporters of lessening the value of transgender service men and women.
“Kind of shocked,” Chris Paulsen said, executive director of the Indiana Youth Group. “This changes the career paths of some of our youth, and obviously some of our main focus is safety and security of our youth, so we’re going to work hard to show they are valued and we will protect them.”
Banks said the issue isn’t ideological, calling the president’s decision a ‘necessary approach.’
“It’s about the readiness of our troops,” he said. “And getting rid of the distractions that get in the way of our troops doing their job.”