The US Coast Guard is “committed” to allowing transgender people to serve unless they are explicitly barred, its leader has said.
President Donald Trump announced on Twitter last year that all transgender servicepeople would be banned from the US armed forces, claiming they were a burden on the military.
The decision was reportedly made without consultation with military chiefs or legal experts, and the policy has been repeatedly smacked down in the courts.
Last month, Trump moved to ban most trans servicepeople by stating that “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria… are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”
But Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft told lawmakers on Tuesday that he would not stop any trans person from serving until he was ordered to do so, Politico has reported.
“We are certainly committed to their continued service in the United States Coast Guard,” he said to a House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
“We will make sure that there is one policy for all service members.”
At least 17 of the Coast Guard’s 40,000 members on active duty identify as trans, according to the commandant, who said that figure included one of his personal staff.
Zukunft said that he was talking to senior figures from all five of the other branches of the military about how to respond to Trump’s ongoing attempts to institute a trans ban.
Zukunft was responding to a question from Democratic congressman David Price, who condemned the president for trying to remove trans troops.
“Seems to me this is an invented problem and a waste of time and dollars and military resources by targeting these dedicated service members who’ve proved their fitness and their ability to serve,” said the North Carolina representative.
Last month, the White House revealed a memo sent to Trump by Defence Secretary James Mattis in February in which Mattis wrote that there were “substantial risks” associated with trans servicepeople.
The Defence Secretary said that permitting some of them to serve would mean exempting them from a series of mental, physical and sex-based standards.
He added that it “could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.”
The statement, released through the White House, claimed that the policy was “developed through extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders.”
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin condemned the announcement and promised to continue battling against the Trump administration’s anti-trans policies.
“There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops,” he said.
“Donald Trump and (Vice President) Mike Pence are pushing their extreme anti-transgender prejudices onto the military over the overwhelming objections of bipartisan officials, national security leaders and the American public.
It is believed that since January 1, around 15 to 20 trans people have begun the process to join the US military.