LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that reinstated a ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military stirred up both condemnation and praise from across the political spectrum.
Leaders of left-wing and moderate advocacy groups called Trump’s tweets an apparent appeal to the portion of his conservative base that resents the recent civil-rights gains by the LGBT community.
Trump supporters, meanwhile, lauded the move, saying it would help spare taxpayers from footing the bill for gender-reassignment.
Transgender service members have been able to serve openly since last year, when the administration of President Barack Obama made that possible.
Roughly 15,000 service members in active duty or in the National Guard or reserves would be affected by the policy, according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law think tank focused on sexual-orientation and gender-identity law and public policy.
That number is based on an estimate of approximately 134,400 transgender adults who are military veterans or retirees, meaning around 150,000 transgender people have served in the military or are on active duty, according to the institute.
In support of his decision, Trump said having transgender service members burdens the military “with tremendous medical costs.”
A Rand Corp. study found transition-related health costs in the military add up to about $8.4 million per year, a not-insignificant number that still only represents 0.13 percent of the annual $6 billion health care costs for active-duty service members.
Southland Democratic political leaders lambasted the president for his announcement.
“No one who is patriotic, courageous and selfless enough to serve in the armed forces should be denied that opportunity because of who they are,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “The president’s decision to bar transgender Americans from military service is at odds with the values of freedom and equality that our men and women in uniform fight for every day.”
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles, who spent four years on active duty with the U.S. Air Force and continues to serve in the reserves, said the move is “not based on facts, it is based on naked bigotry.”
“I know because I served on active duty,” Lieu said. “The military doesn’t care what your sexual orientation or identity is, or who you love. It cares about whether you can shoot straight and complete the mission. The president’s discriminatory decision harms our military readiness for our volunteer-based military. Thousands of transgender Americans are already in the
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s announcement as a “military decision.”
“The president has expressed concerns since this Obama policy came into effect,” she said. “But he’s also voiced that this is a very expensive and disruptive policy, and based on consultation that he’s had with his national security team, came to the conclusion that it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion (and) made the decision based on that.”
Randy Thomasson, president of Sacramento-based SaveCalifornia.com, said he hoped the announcement would correct decisions made by the previous administration.
“Mixing biological women into men’s barracks or biological men into women’s barracks weakens troop morale, trust and effectiveness,” Thomasson said. “The obvious solution to improve our military is to get rid of years of politically correct social experimentation. Where Obama did wrong, Trump’s done right.
“President Trump’s decision reflects the healthy and incontrovertible scientific fact that you’re male if you’ve inherited a Y chromosome from your father, and you’re female if you haven’t.”
A rally was scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. at the Los Angeles LGBT Center in opposition to Trump’s announcement.
Earlier in the day, CBS 2’s Randy Paige spoke to an army reservist, Rudy Akbarian, who happens to also be transgender
He said when he read the president’s tweets this morning, it stung.
“My heart dropped a little bit,” he says, “It hurt. I got emotional, I cried.”
Transgender people, he said, have served ably in the military and deserve better.
“We are here to serve our country just like anyone else,” he said, “100 percent mission ready and capable.”
Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, believes the president’s tweets invite violence against marginalized people like transgender folks.
“People are going to be seriously harmed because of our president’s thoughtless actions,” said Jean, “his thoughtless tweet this morning.”
Wednesday evening, CBS 2’s Tom Wait spoke to Army veteran Shane Ortega.
Ortega, who is transgender, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan from 2005-2016.
He said the Trump tweet was devastating.
“This is a personal attack on everything my military service stood for,” Ortega said, “as well as my friends and family that are still serving.”
For Ortega, fighting for his country meant fighting for the rights of all.
“Right now, Donald Trump is electing to attack certain groups of people, in essence just to be bigoted and to be mean-spirited,” Ortega said.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)