Trump tweet on transgender service members sparks local outrage

A supporter of LGBT rights holds up an "equality flag" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, during an event held by Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass. in support of transgender members of the, in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration that he wants transgender people barred from serving in the U.S. military "in any capacity," citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Trump’s tweet stating the government will bar transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity sparked outrage among supporters around the area.

 

“Transgender individuals serve honorably every day in our military, and to think the president would issue this statement in the form of a tweet boggles the mind,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, a statewide advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“We are disappointed by the news of POTUS’ reinstatement of the ban on transgender military service,” said a statement from Augusta Pride, a local advocacy group. “It serves as a reminder of the importance of our own Augusta Pride community to further strengthen our efforts to foster an inclusive environment for all members of the LGBT community.”

Augusta Pride Vice President James Mintz said he was surprised by the president’s announcement.

“Trump was the one that said he would be one of the most pro-LGBT Republican candidates and he is the one that held up a rainbow flag, saying he would support the community,” Mintz said.

Mintz said he hopes Wednesday statements by prominent Republicans in Congress shape the discussion.

“If people like Sen. Richard Shelby, Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. John McCain say this is an unnecessary proclamation, this is something that should be listened to,” he said.

A 2014 UCLA study put the number of transgender active, reserve and National Guard service members at 15,000 while another study by the Rand Corp. put the number of active members at up to 7,000.

The area transgender community is growing, with more than 20 residents from Columbia and Richmond counties filing name change petitions for names not commonly associated with the gender they were assigned at birth over the last two years, according to research being compiled by Augusta attorney Matthew Duncan, a board member with Georgia Equality and Augusta Pride.

The area military community is also growing, with the arrival of the U.S. Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon bringing thousands of new jobs and families to an area that had, at last count, 15,000 active-duty military on post daily and almost 50,000 off-post retirees and family members.

Military members are prohibited from expressing opinions about the president, who is the commander-in-chief.

The head of South Carolina Equality, Jeff Ayers, said a Department of Defense study already showed that allowing transgender troops to serve without fear or lying was good for readiness and morale.

“This policy was studied by the Department of Defense and should not be reversed based on a few tweets,” Ayers said. “That is not leadership; that is not who we are as a country.”

Trump’s tweet caught off guard Pentagon officials, who couldn’t say whether currently serving transgender soldiers will be forced out and referred questions to the White House.

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly and receive medical treatment since last October. Defense Secretary James Mattis recently deferred allowing incoming transgender service members to enlist until Jan. 1.

The conservative policy organization Liberty Counsel applauded Trump’s statement and said the Obama policies create “confusion, dysfunction and safety issues within the barracks.”

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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