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July 26, 2017

Philly-area pols react to Trump's transgender military ban: 'Better to stab you' in the back

Philadelphia-area politicians have overwhelmingly expressed disapproval of President Donald Trump's surprise announcement that he was banning transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.

In typical fashion, Trump proclaimed the policy decision in a series of tweets Wednesday morning. He said the armed forces "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." The announcement reportedly came as a shock to the Pentagon, an unsurprising revelation considering this White House's tendency to catch other federal agencies off guard.

Transgender troops have been allowed to serve since last year when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter reversed a previous ban. Although a six-month hold was recently put on transgender individuals from enlisting, those currently in the armed forces are still allowed to serve.

Trump's announcement drew the ire of prominent Republicans like U.S. Sens. John McCain and Richard Shelby. Local pols were just as dismissive, including vocal Trump critic state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, who tweeted that the president was essentially stabbing the LGBTQ community in the back.

State Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly gay member of the Pennsylvania State Legislature and son of two former Army lieutenant colonels, called Trump's tweets "ignorant foolishness."

"As the Army brat son of two retired Lt. Colonels, I can say without even an ounce of trepidation that this President doesn't know one thing about military prowess, strategy, or strength," the Philadelphia Democrat said in a Facebook post.

"Moreover, the 'distraction' of a Commander in Chief who actually colludes with our sworn enemy to gain power and then puts our military men and women in harms way as a result of his treason is a greater threat to our nation and its military readiness than any faced during my lifetime," Sims wrote, referring to the ongoing investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans of Philadelphia was also critical of the announcement.

Trump's mention of medical costs to justify his decision seems to be in reference to a study last year that said under the new rule allowing transgender individuals to serve, military health costs could jump anywhere from $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year. That would be a 0.13 percent increase in military health spending, according to the Los Angeles Times.

McCain said in his statement that the Department of Defense is currently conducting its own study on medical costs incurred by enlisting new transgender individuals, and that no policy decisions should be made until that study is completed. He also said 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."

Last year, the GOP-controlled House narrowly defeated an amendment that would have barred transgender members of the military from being covered for gender confirmation surgery.

This is a developing story. Check back here for more details.