Former Arkansas Gov. and prior television show host Mike Huckabee said Thursday night that the military's purpose is to "kill people and break things."
Huckabee's comments during the first Republican presidential debate came after a question on transgender people serving in the military.
"The military is not a social experiment," Huckabee began. "The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things."
His answer was met with much applause from the crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
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He continued: "It's not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make us a different country and more diverse. The purpose is to protect America. I'm not sure how paying for transgender surgery for soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines make our country safer."
Huckabee's statements prompted many to respond via social media platforms, commending and criticizing the Republican presidential candidate.
Kristin Beck, an openly transgender retired Navy SEAL known for her book "Warrior Princess", took to Facebook on Thursday and said:
"The military is not a social experiment, but we do promote equality and fight for liberty including 'individual liberty' and being transgender never made me less capable in the Navy SEALs," according to the Inquisitr.
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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) outright denounced Huckabee after Thursday, accusing him of "campaigning on hate" by supporting the military's current ban on transgender people.
"Countless LGBT families across Ohio and the nation want to know that our next president will defend their Constitutional rights and fight for full federal equality," JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Politlcal Affairs for HRC, said in a statement. "But sadly, tonight's debate left far more questions than answers, and the answers we did get were deeply disappointing."
Approximately 15,500 members of the U.S. military are transgender, according to the HRC.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in July that a study to determine the "policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly" will be conducted over the next six months. The military's current policies on transgender service members, Ash said, are "outdated."
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore