A proposed amendment to a defense bill working its way through Congress would allow any qualified individuals, including transgender people, to serve in the U.S. military.
The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), is modeled after former President Harry Truman’s 1948 order that racially integrated the military.
Speier’s amendment incorporates the language of Truman’s order — that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services” without regard to personal characteristics — but adding protections against discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
The amendment would also codify the military’s existing equal opportunity standards, which includes nondiscrimination protections for sex (which, as defined by the policy, includes gender identity) and sexual orientation.
It now heads before the House Rules Committee, who will decide whether the amendment can be introduced on the House floor while the NDAA is being debated.
By passing the amendment and attaching it to the defense authorization bill, the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service would be reversed, and transgender individuals would be allowed to serve so long as they meet the same eligibility, fitness, and mental health standards as everyone else.
The Palm Center, a think tank that advocates for LGBTQ-inclusive military service, hailed the amendment as an important step to ensuring full equality for transgender troops.
“The Speier amendment recognizes the success of the Truman policy on equal opportunity in the Armed Forces. History, research, and the U.S. military have told us for years that equal treatment in the military enhances readiness and bolsters national security by helping secure the best talent, and ensuring good order and discipline by applying a single standard to all personnel.”
Multiple polls have found that more than two-thirds of the public support allowing transgender people to serve, and former military officials have stated that, when the previous ban on transgender service was lifted during the final months of the Obama administration, inclusive policy did not harm military readiness or negatively impact unit cohesion.
“This critically important amendment would help ensure any qualified American — including transgender patriots — are able to serve our country in the military,” Andy Blevins, a Navy veteran and the executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, said in a statement. “What really matters for military service is whether a person is able, qualified and willing — not who they are or where they come from. Passing this measure would send a powerful message of inclusion, strengthen military readiness, and allow the military to recruit the best and the brightest our nation has to offer.”