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There'll Be No Modifications to Military Transgender Policy -- Yet


WASHINGTON – Transgender service members will be allowed to continue serving openly until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives direction from President Donald Trump to change its policy, America's top military officer announced Thursday.

"I know there are questions about yesterday's announcement on the transgender policy by the President," Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a memo to all military service chiefs, commanders and enlisted military leaders. "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance."

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions,” he continued.

Thursday's announcement comes as backlash continues over Trump’s announcement of a ban on transgenders serving in the military. The Pentagon has for the most part remained silent on the matter.    

"We refer all questions about the president's statements to the White House. We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander in chief on transgender individuals serving the military," a Pentagon spokesperson told CBN News.  

On Wednesday morning the president took to Twitter, saying, "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," he concluded.

Later at press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a little insight into the decision.

"The president has a lot of support for ALL Americans...he wants to protect Americans at all times," she said.

She went on to say the decision would have otherwise been "expensive and disruptive."

"He's voiced this is a very disruptive and expensive policy and based on consultation he's had with his national security team he came to conclusion it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion and made the decision based on that," she said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon won't release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving.  However, a Rand study shows there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active-duty and up to 4,000 in the reserves. The White House offered no definitive answer on what will happen to them.

There has been an ongoing debate over whether or not the military would pay for gender reassignment surgery.  

However, the president took it a step further, declaring transgender people would not be allowed to serve at all.

This puts a stop to Obama-era initiatives aimed at ending all forms of discrimination in the military.

'This Is About Military Readiness'

Military insiders and members of Congress supported the idea of putting a stop to these policies.

"I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities -- and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation's military," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a Marine veteran, said in a statement Wednesday. "The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda."

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told CBN News, "He makes decisions after talking with field commanders. He has a DOD (Department of Defense) leadership team, the joint chiefs, head of joint chiefs. It's important for us to support that military team. This is their decision, so we will support it."

In an appearance on CBN News' "Faith Nation," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., made it clear he too backs the president's decision.

"This is a debate that we had on the floor similar to this about a week ago. Vicky Hartzler had an amendment on the floor to stop paying for the surgery for transgenders," he said.

"One, it takes people out of the military," he noted, "their ability to serve for a year or so as they go through this, the amount of cost, wanting to make sure that money was going to the military itself, to our equipment and other needs that we have for the military."

Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jerry Boykin, former U.S. Army Delta Force commander and current FRC executive vice president, agreed.

"This is about the readiness of our military," he told CBN News. "And if we're going to take money in this year's Defense budget and it will be set aside to perform surgery for transgender people, who we recruited into the military, you got your priorities wrong."

The issue of transgenders in the military had been getting attention in the last few days after it became public knowledge that the military would pay for expensive sex change surgeries and hormone treatments for transgenders in the ranks.   

The Family Research Council has estimated those procedures could cost U.S. taxpayers up to $3.7 billion over the next 10 years.

A move to get funding for those surgeries and treatments stripped from military funding was defeated last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

That defeat sent shock waves through Republican and conservative circles as 23 GOP House members joined Democrat lawmakers to make sure the right to those transgender surgeries and hormone treatments for military members was preserved.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who is among those opposed to such funding, told CBN News, "It seems to me if someone comes to the military with the notion that I want to serve my country and want to protect this, the last great hope of mankind of Earth -- then figure out if you're a man or a woman first and then come to the military and serve this country."  

LGBTQ Supporters Speak Out

Members of the LGBTQ community wasted no time expressing their outrage.

"While the impact of Trump's tweets is unclear, banning transgender service members would erode military readiness and contradict our country's values and ideals," National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Price Minter said in a statement.

"Those who serve our country deserve our gratitude and respect. We call on the president to retract this harmful statement and to defer to the Pentagon's assessment that transgender people are fit to serve," he said.  

Others voicing their support of the LGBTQ community include Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who suggested the president's Twitter announcement was ill-advised.

"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," he said, noting that Trump's statement was "unclear."

"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," McCain said.

"The Department of Defense is currently conducting a study on the medical obligations it would incur, the impact on military readiness, and related questions associated with the accession of transgender individuals who are not currently serving in uniform and wish to join the military," he continued. "I do not believe that any new policy decision is appropriate until that study is complete and thoroughly reviewed by the secretary of defense, our military leadership, and the Congress."

The American Civil Liberties Union, tweeted, "Transgender service members should know the ACLU has your back and we want to hear from you."  

"You are not a 'burden.' Do not let this president shake you. We support you; we stand with you," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.  

Others have pointed out the president's prior statements of support for the LGBTQ community.

During the campaign season, candidate Trump tweeted, "Thank you LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs."

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