Civil rights icon: I fought too hard against discrimination to watch transgender ban happen

Civil rights icon: I fought too hard against discrimination to watch transgender ban happen
© Greg Nash

Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) ripped President Trump's Wednesday announcement banning transgender people from serving in the military, saying he didn't fight to end racial discrimination just to allow discrimination based on gender identity.

"I fought too long to end discrimination based on race and color to allow discrimination based on gender identity to be considered acceptable," Lewis tweeted late Wednesday.

"I stand with our transgender service members, and I pray that they will not lose heart. They must know that we love them. We respect them. We are grateful for their service and sacrifice, and most importantly, we will stand for their rights, just as they have stood for ours," Lewis continued over a series of tweets.

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Transgender troops have been able to serve openly since summer 2016, when the Obama administration lifted the ban. They also receive coverage for any treatment deemed medically necessary by their doctors, including surgery and hormone therapy. 

Trump in a series of Wednesday morning tweets appeared to reverse the entire policy, though it is unclear how his announcement will affect transgender individuals already serving.

Trump said that "after consultation with my Generals and military experts," he had decided the U.S. government would "not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military."

"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. Thank you," he tweeted.

The announcement has been met with bipartisan backlash among lawmakers and political observers. 

It is not immediately clear how Trump's announcement will impact transgender people already serving in the military.