Metro Weekly

Senators introduce defense bill amendment to halt Trump’s trans military ban

Amendment would force Department of Defense to continue reviewing open deployment of trans troops

Kirsten Gillibrand (left) and Susan Collins – Photos: U.S. Senate (left), Office of Susan Collins.

U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act aimed at halting Trump’s transgender military ban.

The amendment would prevent the Department of Defense from removing qualified service members from the Armed Forces based solely on their gender identity.

It also expresses a sense of the Senate that individuals should be able to serve regardless of their gender identity, and requires Secretary of Defense James Mattis to continue with his review examining the impact of allowing already out transgender individuals to join the military, and report those findings to Congress.

Mattis had previously said that such a review would take place when he delayed by six months the deadline by which the various services were to begin accepting out transgender individuals who had been stable in their gender presentation for at least 18 months.

But that was halted after President Donald Trump announced his intention to ban all transgender individuals from serving in the military, under the guise that their presence hurts morale and the price tag that providing gender confirmation surgery to transgender troops would be cost-prohibitive.

“Any individual who wants to join our military and meets the standards should be allowed to serve, period. Gender identity should have nothing to do with it,” Gillibrand said in a press release. “I am proud to work with Senator Collins to  introduce our bipartisan amendment to protect transgender members of our Armed Forces, and I will always fight for our brave transgender troops who put their lives on the line to protect our country.”

“Our Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” Collins added in a statement. “If individuals are willing to put on the uniform of our country, be deployed in war zones, and risk their lives for our freedoms, then we should be expressing our gratitude to them, not trying to exclude them from military service.”

Gillibrand and Collins were among a group of 45 senators who sent a letter to Mattis in July urging him to refrain from discharging transgender service members until an internal Defense Department review is complete.

Both women were also instrumental in pushing for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals to serve openly in the U.S. military.

The Palm Center, a think tank that has long advocated for allowing out LGBTQ people to serve openly in the U.S. military, praised the senators’ amendment, saying it would “prevent uncertainty and disruption” that could occur once Trump’s ban is implemented and would save money that would otherwise be wasted recruiting and training new troops to replace those transgender individuals who were forcibly discharged.

“Media reports have been characterized by misperceptions about what will happen next if Congress fails to take action,” Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin said in a statement. “Secretary Jim Mattis does not have discretion to ignore the President’s order to ban transgender troops and he has not frozen the process.

“Somewhat similar to his DACA directive, President Trump’s transgender policy calls for delayed implementation following a six-month window. The purpose of the delay is not to preserve inclusive policy, but to allow the Pentagon to determine how to transition from its current policy to a ban,” Belkin added. “By taking action to avoid that disruptive and wasteful scenario, Congress would promote military readiness and sustain the well-being of the troops.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com