U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer has vowed to carry out President Donald Trump's order to remove transgender troops, but has also asserted that any American patriot should be allowed to serve, regardless of their gender identity.
On Aug. 10, Spencer stated that he would enforce Trump's transgender ban once the Pentagon was provided thorough guidance. Despite Spencer's pledge to follow the directive, he signaled that he disagreed with a transgender ban, The Virginian-Pilot reports.
"Any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military," Spencer told reporters at the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Navy secretary added that he would not disregard a Pentagon policy because he did not believe that any military service secretary "should go off and do experiments on their own."
Spencer was confirmed as the Navy secretary on Aug. 3. He served in the Marine Corps from 1976 to 1981 before spending decades in the financial sector.
On July 26, Trump took to social media to announce that transgender troops would be prohibited from serving in the military.
"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 U.S. Military," Trump tweeted. "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."
The president's announcement came as a surprise to the Pentagon. Trump made his decision after several conservative House Republicans said they would refuse to pass a defense spending bill that included funding for transgender troops' medical treatments. The group of House Republicans asked the White House to intervene on the issue, and Trump responded by banning transgender troops from the military.
"This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire," a senior House GOP aide told Politico.
In June 2016, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter of the Obama administration lifted the longstanding ban on transgender troops openly serving in the military. The decision was prompted by a study conducted by the Rand Corporation, which estimated up to 6,630 active-duty service members at the time were transgender and concluded that their effect on group cohesion was negligible, according to ABC News.
The Rand Corp. study also estimated that medical treatments for transgender troops would cost up to a maximum of $8.4 million per year, or 0.01 percent of the U.S. military's annual budget for medical provisions, The Washington Post reports.
On July 27, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a memo announcing that Trump's transgender policy would not be implemented until the White House provided the Defense Department with comprehensive guidance on the ban.
Since then, several military officials have spoken out against the ban.
On Aug. 1, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft revealed that he had reached out to his openly transgender service members after Trump's announcement. The admiral cited one of his Coast Guards, Lt. Taylor Miller, and how she had been disowned by her family after coming out as transgender.
"And I told Taylor, I will not turn my back," Zukunft said during an event in Washington, D.C., according to The Hill. "We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard and I will not break faith."
On Aug. 1, the LGBTQ research institute Palm Center released a letter signed by 56 former generals and admirals opposing Trump's transgender ban, The Independent reports.
"This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy," the letter stated.
On Aug. 9, five transgender military service members filed a lawsuit against Trump for his stalled ban. The plaintiffs are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, The New York Times reports.
Several other civil rights groups have pledged to file lawsuits against the Trump administration if the transgender ban goes into effect.
On Aug. 10, Trump asserted that he had made the right decision while he was on vacation at a golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
"It's been a very complicated issue for the military, it's been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I'm doing the military a great favor," Trump said, according to The Blaze.
Sources: ABC News, The Blaze, The Hill, The Independent, The New York Times, Reuters, The Virginian-Pilot, The Washington Post / Featured Image: Adam K. Thomas/U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex L. Smedegard/U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Coast Guard/Flickr