WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., supports allowing transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.
Manchin’s statement comes after President Donald Trump announced Wednesday morning on Twitter the federal government will not allow transgender people in the armed forces.
“I agree with Senator (John) McCain 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,'” Manchin said.
Trump did not make a formal announcement regarding his position, instead going to Twitter.
“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,” the president said in a series of tweets. “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.”
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on June 30, 2016, a policy allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military without the risk of being discharged.
A year later, current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to delay allowing transgender individuals by six months in order to first study the impact of allowing transgender people to enlist. Mattis said at the time the review “in no way presupposes the outcome.”
Trump’s announcement Wednesday came without notifying military leaders or Congress. The 2016 policy was still on the Department of Defense’s website as of Wednesday evening.
According to a Rand Corp. brief, between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender people serve out of more than 1.3 million active-duty troops. The study also estimated health care costs from extending coverage to transgender personnel would increase between $2.4 million and $8.4 million per year, a 0.038 to 0.134 percent spending increase in the defense department’s budget.
In addition, the Rand Corp. study found allowing transgender troops to serve openly would have little effect on troop operations.
“Evidence from foreign militaries and the U.S. military has indicated no significant impact on unit cohesion or operational readiness as a result of allowing transgender and gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly or allowing women to serve in ground combat positions,” the report stated.
Manchin said he stood with McCain, the senior Republican senator from Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Vietnam War veteran.
“The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter,” McCain said in a statement.
“Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. 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.”
The House of Representatives rejected an amendment last month that would have ended funding to provide transgender military personnel medical treatment other than mental health services.
Republicans David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins voted for the amendment.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said Thursday she agreed that social media should not be used to make “major policy announcements.”
“More importantly, we should be thankful for any American who selflessly serves our country to defend our freedoms,” she said.