LGBTIQ groups have lashed out at Donald Trump after he signed an order following through on his social media threat to ban transgender personnel from the military.
“This policy is a shameful slap in the face to people who put their lives on the line everyday to defend our country,” said Jennifer Levi, from GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
“This unprecedented policy amounts to a purge of qualified, contributing troops, and will serve only to undermine unit cohesion and weaken military readiness,” added Levi.
Trump first announced his intentions last month on Twitter, writing: “… 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.”
On Friday, he signed a memo formally ordering the US military to no longer accept transgender men and women as recruits.
The military was also ordered to stop funding “sex reassignment surgical procedures” for personnel, “except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex”.
Trump explained in the memo that he believes that the Obama administration “failed to identify a sufficient basis” to last year allow transgender personnel to serve openly. He insisted that further study was required to ensure that this would not “hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources”.
The memo did not include any action with regard to currently enlisted transgender personnel, instead directing the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to make a decision on their fate. This leaves the livelihood of thousands of transgender troops and staff in limbo.
Attorneys from GLAD and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) had already filed a lawsuit, representing five individuals, against the transgender ban.
The plaintiffs, with more than 60 years of combined military service, are now preparing to file a motion asking the courts to block implementation of the ban while the suit proceeds.
“This is a senseless and unprecedented attack on dedicated service members who have played by the rules,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. “Our military already has standards and systems in place to ensure our troops are qualified and fit to serve. Trump’s ban is about politics, not military policy, and it will make our country less secure.”
According to the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the US military, making the Department of Defense the largest employer of transgender people in America.