July 26, 2017 at 2:40 pm PDT | by Chris Johnson
McCain sour over Trump’s declaration of trans military ban

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized President Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that he intends to ban transgender people from the U.S. military.

McCain, who recently returned to the Senate after being diagnosed with brain cancer, said Trump’s series of tweets declaring the change are “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”

“The statement was unclear,” McCain said. “The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today.”

Amid questions about whether transgender people currently serving in the armed forces will be allowed to stay, McCain said his view is they shouldn’t be expelled.

“Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” McCain said. “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.”

McCain stopped short of saying he supports transgender military service, deferring to the review Defense Secretary James Mattis is currently conducting at the Pentagon.

“The Department of Defense is currently conducting a study on the medical obligations it would incur, the impact on military readiness, and related questions associated with the accession of transgender individuals who are not currently serving in uniform and wish to join the military,”

McCain said. “I do not believe that any new policy decision is appropriate until that study is complete and thoroughly reviewed by the Secretary of Defense, our military leadership, and the Congress.”

In the meantime, McCain said he’d “continue to follow closely and conduct oversight on the issue of transgender individuals serving in the military.”

It should be noted in 2010 McCain was a leading opponent in the Senate of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. As the Pentagon was reviewing the possibility at the time of allowing openly gay people to serve, McCain complained the study was off-base and should have asked service members if they want the change. On the day the Senate voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” McCain said on the Senate floor the occasion was a “sad day.”

McCain isn’t the only high-ranking Senate Republican to criticize the trans ban. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tweeted out support for transgender people in his state on the day Trump banned them from military service.

In response to a tweet from an individual asking Utah’s congressional delegation whether they support transgender Utahns, Hatch on Twitter replied, “Yes.”

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Hatch confirmed that tweet was in reference to Trump’s new ban on transgender military service.

“I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone,” Hatch said. “Transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them. I look forward to getting much more information and clarity from our military leaders about the policy the President tweeted today.”

Hatch and McCain are both among the 10 Senate Republicans in 2013 who voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. However, Hatch insisted on a broad religious exemption in the legislation as well as President Obama’s 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors. Hatch got his way on ENDA, although it didn’t make it into law, but not the executive order.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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