President Trump’s tweets on Wednesday announcing a ban on transgender people from serving in the U.S. military evoked a strong response in Maine.

Adam Cote, a renewable-energy entrepreneur who also has served 20 years in the Maine National Guard and is a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, immediately criticized Trump’s decision.

“As a 20-year veteran of Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan with the Maine Army National Guard, I believe President Trump dishonors the service of so many who have, unlike him, put their lives on the line for our country with his announcement today barring transgender Americans from ‘serving in any capacity’ in the United States military,” Cote wrote on his Facebook page.

“President Harry Truman had it right 69 years ago today when he signed an executive order desegregating the military and declaring ‘equal treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services.’ The core of American power is American values, values this president shows almost no understanding of on a daily basis.”

In an interview with the Press Herald, Cote said that from his experiences, the idea that an LGBT person would be counterproductive to military operations is not true.

“The reality is what people are judged on is can you do the job? Can you be counted on?” Cote said. He said he served with a gay man in Bosnia in 1997 and “nobody cared” about his sexual orientation. “He was the best medic in our unit. He was phenomenal,” Cote said.

The gubernatorial candidates who responded to a Press Herald email on the topic criticized Trump, including Democrats Mark Eves, Janet Mills and Jim Boyle.

“It infuriates me that the president would deny patriotic Americans the opportunity to serve their country. And it weakens our military at a time when we simply can’t afford it,” Eves said. Boyle said Trump’s tweet was “politics at its worst” and he “won’t stand for bigotry.” Mills said Trump’s stance is “disgraceful and un-American.”

Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine, a nonprofit advocacy group, said Trump’s statements could be a major step backward after years of progress in the military.

“Transgender people deserve the same opportunity to serve their country as any other American,” Moonen said. “Our own Sen. Susan Collins was a leading voice on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and last June President Obama lifted the ban on transgender military service. Banning transgender individuals from serving in our military is discrimination, plain and simple, and does absolutely nothing to make us safer.”

Collins said in a statement that “our armed forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country.”

The Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibited openly gay people from serving in the military, but also made it military policy not to inquire about a service member’s sexual preference. That policy was repealed under President Barack Obama in 2011.

Trump said in his Twitter announcement: “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st District, slammed Trump, and said his stance could harm recruitment efforts.

“Our all-volunteer military should not turn away Americans willing to risk their lives for our safety, especially as we face new threats around globe. President Trump’s statement on transgender patriots is bigoted and wrong. We are grateful to all Americans willing to serve our nation in harm’s way,” Pingree said in a statement.

Maine often has been at the forefront of LGBT rights, approving same-sex marriage in 2012.

Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, disagreed with Trump’s view.

“Senator King believes that brave people who want to serve their country should be able to do so,” said Scott Ogden, a King spokesman.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, issued a statement that shed no light on whether he supported Trump’s position. His spokesman declined to clarify.

“Mainers have a long and proud tradition of serving in our nation’s military. We also have a proud history of supporting those who serve, their families, and our veterans. I will always stand behind those who serve in some capacity in the Department of Defense,” Poliquin said in his statement.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

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