Demonstrators flocked to a military recruiting station in Times Square to protest President Donald Trump's abrupt ban on transgender service members in the military.
A crowd of at least a couple of hundred people gathered around the U.S. Armed Forces recruiting station at 43rd Street on Wednesday. They held signs saying "Resist!" and listened to speakers who denounced the ban, which Trump announced on Twitter.
More than a dozen organizations, including Equality New York, GLAAD and the New York Civil Liberties Union, banded together for the Times Square rally.
Demonstrator Yael Leberman says transgender people "are completely adequate to serve" and combat is "not about physical, it's about mental." She says it's unsurprising from the Republican president to say what he said or to see the pushback from a place as diverse as New York City.
Tonya Walker, a transgender Army veteran, said Trump is "rolling back time."
"When I was in you couldn't, you weren't allowed to be gay, trans, or anything, you couldn't be out."
Hannah Simpson, of Harlem, echoed that sentiment.
"I want trans youth like me to know that when they grow up they can have any opportunity they choose," Simpson said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump tweeted that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military "in any capacity," saying they would cause "tremendous medical costs and disruption."
The reaction was quick and furious, with a number of elected officials from the tri-state denouncing Trump's announcement.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who serves on the Armed Services Committee and who led the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Dont Tell," issued a swift rebuke.
"These service members are willing to die for their country, and this is an insult to their brave and honorable service. This new directive is harmful, misguided, and weakens – not strengthens – our military," Gillibrand said
Gillibrand said she will introduce legislation to overturn the ban.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said transgender Americans "are serving honorably in our military. We stand with these patriots."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, blasted Trump's directive as "wrong, intolerant and a giant slide backwards in the fight for equal rights."
"Valor knows no race, no creed, no gender, and no sexual identity, period," he said.
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker praised transgender people in the military and blasted Trump, saying in a statement, "Mr. President, trans military members have sacrificed far more than you ever have – or will."
Like Gillibrand, Booker said he will introduce legislation to reverse the ban and uphold a policy established last year that allows transgender service members to serve openly and to not face discharge from the military solely for being transgender individuals.
In a statement, Mayor de Blasio called the ban "fundamentally un-American and unconscionable," and said, "There is no doubt that our military is only made more mighty when it embraces the inclusivity and diversity at the bedrock of our nation."
"The United States should be leading the way on inclusivity and diversity, not running away from it," the mayor said.
Transgender people have been able to serve openly in the military since June 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended a ban. Trump had tweeted at the time, during the presidential campaign, that he would fight for the LGBT community.
His announcement on Wednesday did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.
There are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon's personnel system, according to several defense officials.
The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops. A RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.
Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon's personnel system.
But Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months.
On the eve of the deadline, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced a delay on allowing transgender people from enlisting, giving the armed forces another six months to study the issue.
Key concerns include whether currently enlisted troops have had medical or other issues that cause delays or problems with their ability to deploy or meet physical or other standards for their jobs. Military leaders also wanted to review how transgender troops are treated, if they're discriminated against or if they have had disciplinary problems, the officials said. They were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Jennifer Long called Trump’s announcement personal. She served in the military for nearly three decades before getting quietly pushed out after she transitioned and changed her name to Jennifer.
“It causes a lot of emotional distress,” Long said. “You just want to get up in the morning and do your job. You’ve been doing it for years with honor. Now you just want to have that one less thing and serve openly and be who you are.”