The top U.S. military officer pushed back against the Trump administration’s decision to ban all transgender people from serving in the military, vowing to oppose White House efforts to ban those individuals and remove those already within the ranks from the services.
“I would just probably say that I believe any individual who meets the physical and mental standards, and is worldwide deployable and is currently serving should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford told Senate Armed Services Committee members Tuesday.
When asked by New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand if he would oppose Mr. Trump’s decision to forcefully separate openly transgender U.S. service members from the military, he replied: “I can promise that that will be my advice. What I’ve just articulated is the advice I’ve provided in private, and I’ve just provided in public.”
Pentagon officials, along with a majority of the Washington establishment, were caught by surprise by President Trump’s reversal in July of the Obama-era policy of allowing transgender individuals to serve openly in the armed forces.
Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was on vacation outside of Washington when Mr. Trump tweeted his decision to roll back department rules allowing transgender service members, was in the midst of a six-month review of the controversial policy.
In September, Mr. Mattis signed interim guidance on how the department would proceed with executing Mr. Trump’s transgender ban. In that guidance, department officials opted to allow transgender troops serving in the military to complete their contracts. Those troops would also be given the option of reenlisting in the military at the end of their tours.
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