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Iraq War Veteran Ernst Would 'Gladly' Allow Transgender Military Members to Serve

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), covers her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance before a town hall meeting Sept. 21, 2017, in Charles City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the first female combat veteran to serve in the upper chamber, stressed this morning that she supports qualified transgender troops being able to serve in the U.S. military.

Late Friday, the White House said that on the recommendation of unnamed experts “the secretary of Defense and the secretary of Homeland Security have concluded that the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery — presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”

“Transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a February report. “Transgender persons without a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria, who are otherwise qualified for service, may serve, like all other service members, in their biological sex.”

Because of multiple pending discrimination lawsuits and associated court injunctions, the policy won’t go into effect yet.

This morning on CBS, Ernst said she’s “happy to have those discussions with the administration” about allowing transgender service members to serve this country while “making sure that those standards are applied fairly across the spectrum of every citizen that wants to join our United States military.”

A lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, Ernst served as a company commander in the Iraq war.

“I support allowing those transgenders that can serve; I believe they should serve,” the senator said. “We do want to make sure that they meet physical requirements. We can’t waive that. That is true across any — any demographic within our military, making sure that they are physically fit and they meet the mental standard.”

“But I have asked transgenders myself, if you are willing to lay down your life beside mine, I would welcome you into our military. But, again, there are standards that have to be met. And I will support the president and the administration on making sure that standards are met,” she added.

“But if there are transgenders that meet those qualifications, certainly, I would gladly have them serve in our United States military.”

Log Cabin Republicans president Gregory T. Angelo said in a statement in response to the White House announcement that the policy change “indicates a confounding disconnect — by allowing for the continued open service of current transgender soldiers, the Pentagon has essentially admitted that there is ultimately no difficulty with the status quo.”

“Preventing future accessions of transgender personnel suggests that this new policy has been reverse-engineered to achieve an outcome likely to succeed in little more than stoking culture wars,” Angelo said. “Log Cabin Republicans commends the brave LGBT military personnel who put their lives on the line to keep us free, and recommits to fighting for their freedoms.”