Coast Guard chief to transgender personnel: ‘I will not turn my back’

The head of the Coast Guard is pledging he “will not break faith” with transgender personnel, marking the strongest rebuttal yet by a leader of the armed forces to President Donald Trump’s declaration he wants to ban all transgender troops.

Commandant Paul Zukunft, in remarks to a Washington think tank Tuesday, cited the story of Coast Guard Lt. Taylor Miller, who was featured last week in The Washington Post, to express his support for transgender members of his service.

“I told Taylor I will not turn my back,” Zukunft told the Center for Strategic and International Studies forum. “We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith.”

The Coast Guard is part of DHS but in wartime can be transferred to the Navy by the president or Congress.

Trump, in a series of tweets last week, said that transgender men and women would not be allowed to serve in the military "in any capacity."

Following the president’s announcement, Zukunft said he reached out to the secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense to consider the announcement’s implications. He also said he has personally reached out to all openly transgender members of the Coast Guard to express his support.

How the president’s wishes will be implemented remains unclear. Both Democrats and Republicans, including some who oppose the government paying for the health care of transgender personnel, have criticized the proposal to drum them out of the ranks in strong terms.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis reiterated Monday that the Defense Department hasn’t received any additional guidance beyond the president’s tweets last week and that it’s still waiting for a formal order.

He said that officials from the White House have reached out to begin drafting the order but declined to get into any specifics, saying that “we have conversations back and forth all the time with the White House through a variety of channels.”

Asked if the Pentagon has a solid reason to believe an order will come, Davis said “we have no reason not to believe we are” getting something.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also told reporters last week that "the White House will work with the Department of Defense and all of the relevant parties to make sure that we fully implement this policy moving forward and do so in a lawful manner."

Jacqueline Klimas contributed to this report.

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