Metro Weekly

UPDATE: U.S. House votes to defund Trump’s transgender ban

Amendment to defense appropriations bill would bar Defense Department funds from being used to enforce ban

Rep. Jackie Speier – Photo: Facebook.

Rhe U.S. House of Representatives has approved an amendment that prohibits the Pentagon from using government dollars to enforce President Trump’s ban on transgender service members.

Last week, the House Rules Committee green-lighted the amendment, offered by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), thereby allowing it to be introduced and debated on the floor.

On Tuesday evening, the House voted to add the amendment to the appropriations bill by a vote of 243-183, with nine Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of the defunding strategy. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) was the only Democrat to vote against the amendment.

If the Speier Amendment, attached to a defense appropriations bill, were to stay intact and be approved as part of the larger bill, it would effectively render the Pentagon’s current ban — which seeks to expel transgender service members who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or those who seek to undergo a gender transition — toothless.

But Senate Republicans are expected to block the Speier Amendment and any similar amendments offered by its own pro-LGBTQ members.

Speier previously introduced a bill, HR 1032, that would declare the current ban “inconsistent” with the goal of promoting military readiness and allow any person who is qualified, regardless of gender identity, to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces, so long as they meet the requisite physical, mental health and educational standards.

Additional cosponsors of the Speier Amendment include: Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), the head of the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force, and Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.).

Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, a think tank that advocates for open and LGBTQ-inclusive military service, previously praised the Rules Committee’s approval of the Speier Amendment.

“Rep. Speier’s amendment would prevent the military from implementing this discriminatory ban and wasting taxpayer money firing and replacing fully qualified transgender troops,” Belkin said in a statement. “Research indicates it costs far more money to fire and replace a service member than to provide medically necessary health care.

The Defense Department spent only $3 million per year providing health care to transgender personnel before President Trump reinstated the ban, a figure military leadership has called mere “budget dust.”

In wasting money and talent, the ban undermines readiness, and Rep. Speier’s amendment would put an end to that.”

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

President Trump has frequently harped on the cost of providing gender-affirming health care to transgender people, arguing that the ban helps save money that would otherwise be spent on costly surgeries and prolonged recovery time.

He recently introduced another justification for the ban, arguing that the drugs and hormones that transgender people who undergo a gender transition must take disqualify them from serving.

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling on the House to pass the Speier Amendment.

“Transgender troops have served openly with distinction for years,” HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride said. “The Trump administration’s ban on transgender troops goes against medical experts, military leadership, budget analysts, 70% of the American people, and the U.S. House, who passed a resolution in March condemning Trump’s attacks on transgender service members. We are thankful to Congresswoman Speier for her leadership on this amendment and call upon her colleagues to join her in passing it.”‘

Following the vote, the advocacy organization GLAAD called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow a vote on an amendment to defund the ban when the Senate takes up its own version of the defense appropriations bill.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which are representing some of the plaintiffs challenging the ban ban, also issued statements thanking lawmakers for standing up for the transgender service members.

“A policy that turns way qualified, dedicated Americans who want to serve their country is baseless, discriminatory, and ultimately weakens our military,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project.

“Military leaders don’t want this ban and the American people don’t want this ban — including a growing percentage of the President’s own party,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter added. “We won’t stop fighting in the courts to end the ban for good and we applaud members of Congress for continuing to fight for our transgender service members as well.”

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

Leave a Comment: