US Navy secretary says 'any patriot' should be able to serve in wake of Trump's transgender ban

WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - U.S. Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said he would follow directions from the president on transgender people in the military but believes "any patriot" should be allowed to serve.

Spencer, speaking to reporters on Thursday on a visit to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, said he would abide by any policy the Pentagon provides to the armed forces on the transgender issue.

However, Spencer said he believes that, on a fundamental basis, "any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military," according to news reports.

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter last month that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military "in any capacity," reviving a ban that had ended in 2016.

RELATED: Senators react to ban on transgender people in the military

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Senators react to ban on transgender people in the military

"We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are," McCain said.

(Photo credit BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi noted in a statement that the date of Trump's announcement coincided with the date President Harry Truman desegregated the military in 1948.

"Sixty-nine years later, President Trump has chosen this day to unleash a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery," Pelosi said. "This disgusting ban will weaken our military and the nation it defends."

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama was first told of Trump's announcement during a CNN interview, responding that he wanted to read the policy's wording but was sure the Senate will hold hearings on the matter. "You ought to treat everybody fairly and you ought to give everybody a chance to serve," he said.

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq War veteran who lost her legs in combat, called the ban "discriminatory and counterproductive to our national security."

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind," Duckworth said in a statement. "If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve — no matter your gender identity, sexual orientation, or race."

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah was asked whether he stood with the state's transgender community, Hatch responded "Yes" on Twitter, then released a longer statement saying "I don't think we should be discriminating against anyone."

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement the military "should not turn away anyone who is willing and able to serve this country and help keep Americans safe."

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The ban is "discrimination, plain and simple," Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California tweeted.

Source: Twitter

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey wrote that Trump is "wrong" and transgender service members are "heroes like anyone else risking their lives to defend us."

Source: Twitter

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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Trump's announcement created vast uncertainty for active-duty and reserve transgender service members, who say they number in the thousands. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a memo a day after Trump's tweet that there would be no change in policy until Defense Secretary James Mattis received an official order from the president. That order has not been issued.

A week after the announcement, the U.S. Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Paul Zukunft, offered support for transgender members of his service.

On Wednesday, five transgender members of the U.S. military, including Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, sued Trump over the transgender ban, saying he made the announcement without consulting senior military commanders. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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