WASHINGTON (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.
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)