On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow transgender individuals who meet all other physical, educational, and mental health standards to serve in the U.S. military.
The amendment passed 242-187, with 10 Republicans voting with Democrats in support of transgender military service.
It incorporated much of the language from Truman’s order — including that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services” without regard to personal characteristics — while adding sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes.
The vote in favor of the amendment is an act of direct defiance against the Trump administration, which has fought for the past two years to limit transgender participation in the military.
Under the so-called “Mattis Plan,” named after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, transgender individuals may only enlist or serve in the U.S. military if they have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and remain in (and present according to grooming standards for) their assigned sex at birth.
Prior to the vote, the Modern Military Association of America, an advocacy group for LGBTQ service members, released a letter sent to members of Congress urging them to support the Speier Amendment.
The letter was signed by a number of prominent military and national security leaders and organizations, including Blue Star Families; former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus; former Army Secretary Eric Fanning; retired Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, the former Director of Health and Safety for the U.S. Coast Guard; Suzanne Nossel, a former deputy assistant Secretary of State; and Ben Rhodes, a former deputy National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama and co-chair of National Security Action, along with Jake Sullivan, a former National Security Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, who is also among the letter’s signatories.
An estimated 15,000 transgender troops were active duty members of the Armed Forces when the Mattis Plan went into effect in April.
The Pentagon has not published any information regarding the number of service members who have been discharged or denied commissions as a result of the new policy.
Last month, the Senate passed its own version of the NDAA without any provisions challenging the administration’s current policy on transgender service.
After the House passes its version, the bill will go to a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between the versions of the bill. It is at this point that the amendment could remain intact or could be removed from the bill.
Even though hopes for the Speier Amendment’s successful adoption by the Conference Committee seem dim, LGBTQ advocates praised its passage by the House.
“This is a crucial moment for our elected officials to bring accountability to a reckless and lawless policy,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “This bigoted ban has brought chaos to prospective recruits, active duty service members, and countless families forced to watch their dedication and duty soiled by a self-interested President.
“The military wants and needs qualified transgender people, and we applaud this action by the House to ensure that every person willing and able to serve is allowed to serve,” she added. “It will now be up to the Conference Committee and the President whether to embrace equal opportunity or discrimination.”
“We applaud the leadership shown by bipartisan members of Congress in their efforts to reverse this policy which turns away qualified, dedicated Americans who want to serve their country,” said Jennifer Levi, the director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, which is suing the administration in court over the “Mattis Plan,’ which advocates argue essentially constitutes a ban.
“Diversity is an asset to our institutions and that includes the U.S. military. We’ve seen this hold true time and again — through desegregation, the integration of women, and the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” added Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is also suing the administration on behalf of transgender service members and recruits. “Allowing transgender people to serve on equal terms in our nation’s military will only make our military and our nation stronger.”
Community members rallied on Monday afternoon to remember a transgender woman who died after being stabbed earlier this month in Northeast D.C.
A group consisting of friends, family, and fellow D.C. residents gathered at the corner of Gallaudet Street NE and Providence Street NE, in the Ivy City neighborhood, to remember Jasmine Starr Parker, who was 36 when she was murdered on Jan. 7.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, police were flagged down in the 2000 block of Gallaudet Street NE, in between Gallaudet University's campus and Mt. Olivet Cemetery around 3 a.m. on Jan. 7. Upon arriving on scene, they found Parker on the ground, unresponsive, suffering from a stab wound to her leg. Parker was declared dead at the scene.
The World Boxing Council, one of four major organizations that sanction professional boxing matches, plans to launch a separate category dedicated to transgender fighters over safety concerns.
WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman told the British newspaper The Telegraph in an interview published on Dec. 29 that the new category is being proposed to ensure "the dangers of a man fighting a woman will never happen."
"We will not allow -- ever -- a transgender born a man to fight a woman, who was born a woman," he said, referring to concerns over greater physical strength and physiological advantages that transgender women enjoy over cisgender females.
Two West Virginia bills aimed at protecting minors from "obscene" performances and materials could end up penalizing transgender visibility under the bills' definition of what constitutes "sexually explicit" matter.
The bills, introduced by State Sen. Michael Azinger (R-Vienna), seek to prohibit obscene or sexually explicit materials in or within 2,500 feet of schools and would bar minors from being present for obscene performances or displays.
Both bills define "obscene matter" as material that appeals to the prurient interest, that depicts or describes sexually explicit conduct, or lacks "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value," in keeping with common elements of obscenity laws.
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