The head of the U.S. Coast Guard vowed on Tuesday to continue allowing trans people to serve openly until the White House offers an official policy banning them from active duty.
During a hearing with the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said the Coast Guard is “certainly committed” to the “continued service” of trans individualseven as the Trump administration continues to prevent them from enlisting.
Zukunft claimed the issue has yet to be “reconciled” between all five branches of the military, but they are actively working toward a solution.
“I work with the chairman,” he told Rep. David Price during questioning. “I work with the other service chiefs as we look at the policy going forward. We will make sure that there is one policy for all service members.”
Price, a Democrat, voiced his displeasure with continued action from the White House and Pentagon blocking transgender people from enlisting. In March, the Trump administration issued a 44-page policy claiming that individuals who “require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified” from service.
The only way for trans individuals to join the armed forces is to present in accordance with their “biological sex.”
“Seems to me this is an invented problem and a waste of time and dollars and military resources by targeting these dedicated service members who’ve proved their fitness and their ability to serve,” Price said.
Federal courts have, thus far, agreed with the North Carolina Congressman’s assessment. At least four federal courts blocked a directive signed by President Trump in August after he first announced via tweetstorm that trans people would not be permitted to serve “in any capacity” in the U.S. military.
After the new policy was released last month, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman continued a preliminary injunction against the banfinding that the memo did not differ substantially from previous guidelines put forward by the administration.
“Requiring transgender people to serve in their ‘biological sex’ does not constitute ‘open’ service in any meaningful way,” she wrote.
Prior to Tuesday’s comments, Zukunft has previously signaled his support for trans inclusion in the military. When Trump first tweeted the ban last July, the commandant said he “reached out to all 13 members of the Coast Guard who have come out” to offer words of comfort.
These individuals include Lt. Taylor Miller, the first officer to transition openly while serving in the Coast Guard.
“Taylor’s family has disowned her,” said Zukunft in reference to a Washington Post profile of Miller. “I told Taylor, ’I will not turn my back [on you]. We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard and I will not break faith.”
The officer further pledged that “all qualified people who wish to serve in our nation’s military should have the opportunity to do so.”
Transgender people have been allowed to serve openly since Jan. 1, when the series of federal court rulings against the ban paved the way for trans enlistment. At least two individuals have successfully joined the armed forces since then, with dozens more expected to follow suit.
Photo via Washington Post/Getty Images