President Donald Trump’s announcement that Wednesday morning that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military was widely viewed as an applause line for his voting base. But not all members of his party were amused. Indeed as the day wore on, some powerful members of the GOP started making their views heard.
Senator John McCain, a one time prisoner of war and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, came out against the policy, calling it “unclear” and “another example of why major policy announcements should not be made on Twitter.”
“Any American who currently meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” McCain said.
Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Shelby of Alabama joined McCain in denouncing Trump’s decision.
Republicans appeared to be caught off guard by the announcement. It took several hours before they started to issue statements and as of press time many Republicans remained mum, including the Republican head of the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry.
Sen. Joni Ernst, Republican from Iowa and a veteran who served for a year in Kuwait, came out against the ban. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the other Republican senator from Iowa who was standing beside Ernst when she made her announcement, told the Des-Moines Register, “I have respect for what she has to say, and I think I would let it go at that until I’ve looked into it deeper and had conversations with her.”
In the House, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has a transgender son, promptly came out against the ban. She was joined by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who wrote on Twitter, “Americans who are willing & able should be allowed to serve U.S. regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was opposed to legalizing gay marriage and employment protections for LGBT individuals, appeared ambivalent about Trump’s decisions. “I don’t know what the policy proposal is. I don’t know why he decided what he did. But I think the right thing to do here is to have a hearing so we can hear from both sides,” Graham told ABC News.
Democrats and LGBT advocates were unanimous in their opposition to the decision, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost both of her legs while serving in Iraq.
“When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else,” she said.
Chelsea Manning, the transgender whistleblower whose leaking of thousands of classified or sensitive military documents to Wikileaks earned her a seven year prison sentence, quickly decried the ban on Twitter.
Manning sued the Department of Defense in order to be allowed to get medical treatment, including hormone therapy, and to transition.