Top Dem: Pentagon decision to delay transgender troop enlistment 'outrageous'

Top Dem: Pentagon decision to delay transgender troop enlistment 'outrageous'
© Greg Nash

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe case for congressional pay raises Approve USMCA before it's too late Lawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress MORE (D-Md.) condemned the Trump administration on Saturday for issuing a delay in allowing transgender soldiers to serve in the military.

Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, called the Pentagon's move "outrageous" and argued it was done "without providing any evidence."

“It is outrageous that the Trump Administration would issue a delay in allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in our military without providing any evidence to support such a decision," Hoyer said in a statement.

"We need to ensure that all those who are talented, driven, and capable and who wish to serve in defense of our country – often in mission-critical positions – are able to do so," he said. "If the Pentagon cannot adequately explain or justify this reversal in the policy implementation, it ought not to pursue it.”

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Hoyer mentioned his role in reversing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as one of the proudest moments of his congressional career. The practice, which was put in place in 1993, barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people from military service. The policy was repealed in 2011.

"When I was Majority Leader, one of my proudest moments was bringing to the Floor legislation to end the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and enable gay and lesbian Americans to serve openly," Hoyer said.

"Our military learned many lessons from that integration, which helped inform the decision by former Defense Secretary Carter to begin the process of allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in uniform as well."

On Friday, the Pentagon officially delayed for six months implementing the policy that would allow transgender people to enlist in the military. According to a memo written by Defense Secretary James Mattis, the policy was delayed to ensure no changes would occur to the military's combat readiness.

The move was immediately blasted by top LGBT advocates.

“Each day that passes without the policy in place restricts the armed forces’ ability to recruit the best and the brightest, regardless of gender identity,” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) press secretary Stephen Peters said Friday.

Transgender people who already serve in the military are allowed to do so openly, but no new recruits have been allowed to join.