(AP) President Donald Trump released an order Friday night banning most transgender troops from serving in the military except under "limited circumstances," following up on his calls last year to ban transgender individuals from serving.
The White House said retaining troops with a history or diagnosis of "gender dysphoria" - those who may require substantial medical treatment - "presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality."
Trump surprised the Pentagon's leadership in a 2017 tweet when he declared he would reverse an Obama-era plan to allow transgender individuals to serve openly. His push for the ban has been blocked by several legal challenges, and four federal courts have ruled against the ban. The Pentagon responded by allowing those serving to stay in the military, and began allowing transgender individuals to enlist beginning Jan. 1.
"This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards - including those regarding the use of medical drugs - equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday.
The new policy was promptly assailed by congressional Democrats and civil rights groups. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted, "No one with the strength & bravery to serve in the U.S. military should be turned away because of who they are. This hateful ban is purpose-built to humiliate our brave transgender members of the military who serve with honor & dignity."
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, accused the Trump administration of pushing "anti-transgender prejudices onto the military."
"There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops," said HRC President Chad Griffin.