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Donald Trump holds pride flag

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump called himself a "friend" to the LGBTQ community, but on Wednesday he announced a ban on transgender people in the U.S. armed services. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Trump Tramples on LGBTQ Rights With Ban on Trans Service Members

ACLU lawyer accuses administration of "toying with national security, trans lives, and our collective health, for the sake of midterms"

Jessica Corbett

Roiling LGBTQ advocates nationwide, President Donald Trump's continued to trample on LGBTQ rights Wednesday, by announcing that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

"From stripping protections from transgender students to today's announcement, the Trump administration has made clear it has an agenda of discrimination."
—Tarah Demant, Amnesty International

"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," said Joshua Block, an ACLU senior staff attorney. "There is no basis for turning trans people away from our military and the ACLU is examining all of our options on how to fight this."

In a June 2016 decision that was lauded by much of the LGBTQ community, Barack Obama's Department of Defense announced it would allow transgender service members to openly serve. Later last year, the DOD implemented training for its leadership and medical guidance for doctors to address transition-related medical care for transgender service members.

On Wednesday, less than a month after the military was initially scheduled to begin accepting new transgender members into its ranks, Trump said in a series of tweets:

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. 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.

Jonathan Swan, an Axios reporter, spoke to a White House official who suggested the decision was a political strategy ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The official reportedly told Swan:

This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue. How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for reelection in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow [D-Mich.] are now forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaign?

ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio, who famously represented former soldier and WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning, responded to Swan's report:

Manning, who is believed to be the first person to receive transition-related healthcare while in military prison, tweeted Wednesday: "Today is further reason we should dismantle the bloated and dangerous military/intel/police state to fund #healthcare for all." Manning also noted the cost of the government's wildly expensive F-35 program:

Journalist Ali Abunimah, criticized Trump's decision, while also pointing out the problem of advocating for anyone to be part of the U.S. military machine.

Glenn Greenwald, a journalist and LGBTQ rights advocate, shared Abunimah's tweet—noting his contribution to "the long-standing debate on the left when it comes to LGBT discrimination and the US military"—and refuted Trump's claim that covering transitioning service members' medical costs would be burdensome.

The nation's leading LGBTQ advocates were quick to condemn the decision.

"This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, which estimates that about 15,000 transgender people currently serve in the armed forces. "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."

"Today's announcement violates the human rights of all transgender Americans. It lays bare the president's prejudice and underlines the fact that creating policy based on bigotry is becoming a dangerous and cruel pattern for President Trump," said Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA's director of gender, sexuality, and identity. "The administration continues to target minority communities without pause and without facts. From stripping protections from transgender students to today's announcement, the Trump administration has made clear it has an agenda of discrimination."

Advocates also pointed out how the decision blatantly contradicts Trump's campaign pledges that he would be a "real friend" to the LGBTQ community.

Democrats in Congress also decried the Trump administration's decision.

This article has been updated with comments from Amnesty International.

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