Coast Guard officials reached out personally to their transgender service members to express support after President Trump’s announcement of a new policy barring transgender people in the military, according to Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.
“The first thing we did is we reached out to all 13 members of the Coast Guard who have come out” as transgender, Zukunft told attendees at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington.
Zukunft said he contacted Lt. Taylor Miller, the Coast Guard’s first openly transitioning officer who was featured in a Washington Post article last week.
“If you read that story, Taylor’s family has disowned her. … And I told Taylor, I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard and I will not break faith,” Zukunft said.
“And so that was the commitment to our people right now. Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work today.”
The Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security but is a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and would fall under the transgender ban.
Zukunft added that he then reached out to now former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — who became White House chief of staff on Monday — who in turned reached out to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“We’ve stood up a tiger team of our [Judge Advocate General’s Corps] officers,” Zukunft said, referring to the legal branch of the Coast Guard.
Trump last week declared on Twitter that the military would “not accept or allow” transgender people to serve “in any capacity.” The president said in the tweet that he had made the decision after consultation with “my Generals and military experts.”
But the announcement blindsided Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and service leaders.
Dunford has since said the current transgender policy will remain unchanged until the White House sends an official directive to the Pentagon. Such a directive has yet to be sent.
The Pentagon moved last year to lift the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.
Following that June 2016 announcement, Zukunft released a statement supporting the decision along with then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“The U.S. Coast Guard has been involved in the Department of Defense’s extensive review of this issue, and will align its policies with the other military services,” they wrote. “All qualified people who wish to serve in our Nation’s military should have the opportunity to do so. Today’s announcement is another important step in that direction.”