President Donald Trump said Wednesday that his administration will block transgender people from serving in the American military.
Trump's pronouncement reverses an Obama administration policy announced last year.
In Wednesday morning tweets, Trump said that the U.S. military "will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." He contended that the military "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
In a statement responding to Trump, the American Civil Liberties Union said that "thousands of transgender service members serving on the front lines for this country deserve better than a commander-in-chief who rejects their basic humanity. "
LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD called the move "a direct attack on transgender Americans" and contended that "Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn't make that any more clear."
Obama administration Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender people serving in the military last year, allowing them to serve openly. His Defense Department set out guidelines for transgender individuals enlisting, but the Trump administration had delayed implementing them.
In a statement, the Pentagon directed questions to the White House and said it will "work closely with the White House to address the new guidance" given by Trump.
It is unclear how Trump's policy will affect current transgender service members. Rand Corp., one of the outside groups that Obama's Defense Department consulted on the policy, estimates that 1,320 to 6,630 transgender people are in active military service.
Following Trump's announcement, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., criticized it as "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. 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."
McCain added that he believes no "new policy decision is appropriate" until the Pentagon completes a study on the effects of the Obama policy on medical costs and relevant officials have the opportunity to review it.
Trump partly cited costs in his tweets explaining his decision Wednesday. That same Rand report estimated that health-care costs for transgender personnel would increase by between $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually, "representing a 0.04- to 0.13 percent increase in active-component" health-care costs.
Trump requested a $639.1 billion Defense budget for fiscal 2018.