WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump said yesterday he would not permit transgender people to serve in the United States military, citing "tremendous medical costs and disruption", an action condemned by critics as "raw prejudice" and a political stunt.
It is not the first time Mr Trump has targeted transgender people since taking office in January. The Republican President in February rescinded protections for transgender students put in place by his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, that had let them use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.
Mr Trump wrote in a series of Twitter posts: "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 US 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."
Mr Trump's action appeared to halt years of efforts to eliminate barriers to the military service based on sexual orientation. The Pentagon last year under Mr Obama announced that it was ending its ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, with officials calling the prohibition outdated.
The Defence Department referred all questions about Mr Trump's decision to the White House. The Pentagon had been expected to start allowing transgender people to begin enlisting this year, provided they had been "stable" in their preferred gender for 18 months. But Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on June 30 approved a six-month delay in allowing transgender recruits to join the military.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Joshua Block called Mr Trump's action outrageous and desperate, saying the President rejected the "basic humanity" of transgender service members.
"This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country," Mr Block said. "The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country."
The top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Ms Nancy Pelosi, noted that a study commissioned by the Pentagon found the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care involving transgender service members would amount to a 100th of 1 per cent of the military's healthcare budget.
"Once again, President Trump has shown his conduct is driven not by honour, decency, or national security, but by raw prejudice," Ms Pelosi said.
The US Supreme Court in March scrapped plans to hear a major transgender rights case and threw out a lower court's ruling in favour of a transgender Virginia high school student, after Mr Trump rescinded Mr Obama's policy.
The US military's ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces ended under Mr Obama in 2011, after Congress passed legislation in 2010 reversing a law dubbed "don't ask, don't tell", that had forced the ouster of thousands of service members and others to hide their sexual orientation.
The US military at times has been in the vanguard of social progress in the US - for example, president Harry Truman's racial integration of the armed forces in 1948 before the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s.