The head of the U.S. Coast Guard is challenging President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving in the military and is sending a message of support for “out” service members.
“I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard and I will not break faith,” Commandment Adm. Paul Zukunft said Tuesday, addressing attendees at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, The Hill reported.
Trump announced his ban on transgender military members via Twitter last Wednesday saying “The United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
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The announcement makes for uncertain futures for the thousands of transgender people currently serving in the military. For the 13 transgender members of the Coast Guard, Zukunft wanted them to know the Coast Guard would not turn their backs on them.
“And so that was the commitment to our people right now. Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work today,” he said.
The Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security but is a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and would fall under the transgender ban.
Trump alleged he made his decision following “consultation with his generals,” but the announcement blindsided Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and other service leaders
The move reverses former President Barack Obama’s policy and halts years of efforts to eliminate barriers to military service based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Since Trump’s surprise announcement last week the administration has said the current transgender policy will remain unchanged until the White House sends an official directive to the Pentagon. No such directive has yet been sent.