Senator Joni Ernst says taxpayers “shouldn’t cover the costs associated with gender reassignment surgery,” but Ernst says any qualified American should be able to serve in the military.
President Trump has sent a series of tweets, announcing the U.S. military “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military.” Trump says transgender soldiers cause “disruption” and cloud the military’s focus on “decisive and overwhelming victory.”
Republican Joni Ernst is the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate. While Ernst says she, too, doesn’t think taxpayers should pay for soldiers to have gender reassignment surgery, Ernst would not bar transgender people from joining the military. Ernst says anyone who “can meet the physical training standards” and is willing “to defend our freedoms and way of life” should be allowed to serve.
The Des Moines Register first reported Ernst’s view on the issue. The Associated Press reports Congressman Steve King is praising Trump for ensuring the military isn’t “experimenting” and allowing transgender individuals to become soldiers. Senator Chuck Grassley told a group of Iowa reporters today that he routinely defers to Ernst’s expertise on military matters, but Grassley said he hasn’t studied this issue.
It’s unclear how many transgender soldiers are currently serving. A report for the military estimates it could be about 7,000 of the 1.3 million soldiers currently on active duty.