Walz: Trump's transgender restriction is 'completely unacceptable'
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is criticizing President Donald Trump's decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.
In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress, called the move "completely unacceptable" and accused Trump of making the announcement to distract the public from "his own political problems."
“Our brave transgender troops currently serving this great nation are not a burden; they are American heroes," Walz, a Democrat representing southern Minnesota, later said in a statement. "They volunteered to put their lives on the line for our freedom, and their service should be welcomed, celebrated, respected, and honored."
He added, "Let me be clear: serving alongside troops who happen to be different from you is not a challenge."
President Trump took to Twitter early Wednesday to announce the policy change, which he said was made after consulting with generals and military experts. It reverses a move last year by President Barack Obama's administration that allowed transgender people to openly serve 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," Trump wrote.
While the announcement came as welcome news for some conservative groups, many Republicans on Capitol Hall, including Sen. John McCain, condemned the decision.
"The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today," McCain wrote. "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."
Out of the 1.3 million active-duty members in the military, about 2,500 identify as transgender. It remains unclear when or how the policy will take effect.
Cover photo: Walz campaigning for governor at the 2017 Twin Cities Pride Parade in Minneapolis / Creative Commons