Metro Weekly

House members introduce bill to halt transgender military ban

Measure serves as a companion bill to similar Senate measure introduced last month

Photo: House of Representatives. Credit: Bryant Avondoglio/Speaker’s Office.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced a bipartisan bill to halt Trump’s ban on transgender military members.

The bill is the House companion to a Senate measure introduced in September that aims to prevent the Pentagon from forcibly discharging qualified service members from the Armed Forces based solely on their gender identity.

The legislation maintains that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve.

It also requires Secretary Mattis to complete an ongoing review studying the effect of allowing transgender individuals to serve by the end of the year and report the results to Congress.

“Kicking out members of the United States Armed Services solely based on their gender identity is hateful, discriminatory, and on the wrong side of history,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), one of the lead sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. “News flash, Mr. President — thousands of transgender troops already serve our country with pride and dignity.

“Our military should be focused on recruiting and retaining the best troops, not on rejecting qualified service members on the basis of discrimination.”

“Congress’ intention with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was to allow our brave service members to openly serve in our armed forces without fear of being discriminated against,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), said in a statement. “The decision by the Administration to not allow transgender individuals to serve in the military is a sad reminder of the dark chapters in our nation’s history that should never be repeated.

“Any patriot, as long as they are qualified to serve, should have the ability to, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” she added. “These individuals are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom, a freedom that they should also be able to enjoy.”

Other leading sponsors of the measure include U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Adam Smth (D-Wash.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The bill is already being praised by advocates of open military service.

“Bipartisan Congressional ​support for the troops reflects the broad agreement among security leaders and the public that Americans who are able and willing to serve should be allowed to do so, and that uniformed service should be based on merit, not politics or emotion,” Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, said in a statement.

“Evidence-based research as well as the experiences of eighteen foreign militaries that allow transgender troops to serve openly confirm that inclusive policy promotes readiness,” Belkin added. “Senators and Representatives from both parties agree with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who said ​that banning honorably-serving transgender ​Americans would disrupt military operations and force service members to lie to defend their country, echoing the failure of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

“The introduction of this legislation provides still more evidence that bipartisan opposition in Congress to President Trump’s discriminatory and unconstitutional ban on military service by transgender individuals is growing by the day,” Ian Thompson, a legislative representative with the American Civil Liberties Union. “We have seen one sweeping anti-LGBT action after another from this administration. The commitment of the Trump administration to discrimination is now crystal clear.

“Members of Congress who support equality under the law for LGBT people must use every tool at their disposal to fight back.”

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