House votes to condemn Trump's transgender military ban

The House passed a resolution formally condemning the Trump administration’s transgender military ban in a 238-185 vote on Thursday.

Five Republicans joined every Democrat in backing the measure, which was spearheaded by Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Trump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Sanders's Massachusetts state director 'moves on' from campaign MORE III (D-Mass.), who serves as the chair of the Equality Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force.

The resolution's passage comes shortly after the administration announced that the requirement for members of the military to serve as the gender they were assigned at birth would be implemented next month, effectively undoing the Obama administration’s policy from June 2016.

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A federal appeals court on Tuesday finalized a ruling to lift an injunction against the ban, allowing the policy to take effect April 12 as planned.

The nonbinding resolution  — which was co-sponsored by 216 Democrats and GOP Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoConservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Progressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements MORE (N.Y.) — states the reverse in policy is detrimental to “our national security by undermining our ability to recruit and retain the talented personnel” and that “claims attempting to justify President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE’s ban are based on flawed scientific and medical assertions.”

The Republicans who voted with Democrats on the move were Katko and fellow Reps. Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthOvernight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (Ind.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Congressional Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses two Texas Democrats Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' MORE (Texas), Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedKoch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill On The Money: Fed holds rates steady in end to challenging year | Powell says deal on new NAFTA could settle economic jitters | CEOs' economic outlook drops for seventh straight quarter House panel votes to temporarily repeal SALT deduction cap MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats launch bilingual ad campaign off drug pricing bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill MORE (Pa.). One Republican, Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGroup of House Democrats reportedly attended the White House ball Group of Democrats floating censure of Trump instead of impeachment: report Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing MORE (Mich.), voted present.

Proponents of the measure have blasted the president’s decision, which was announced in July 2017, as discriminatory and unnecessary.

"We believe that the policy that the Pentagon is putting forward is unfair and based on ignorance and bigotry and will actually harm national security, and we ask the House in this resolution to express the sense of Congress that we oppose this policy from the Pentagon," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons House passes defense bill to establish Space Force, paid family leave for federal workers Pentagon leaders: Trump clemencies won't affect military order and discipline MORE (D-Wash.) said on the floor ahead of the vote.

"Again, what this policy's primarily based on is ignorance and bias against the transgender community. The policy [that] is being implemented will make it virtually impossible to let them serve in the military. It's discrimination. The military last year failed to meet its recruitment quotas. It's hard to find the people who have the character, the capability and the ability to serve in our military. We have the best military in the history of the world."

Under the policy, any service member who enlists after April 12 or who has not already come out as transgender would have to serve in the gender they were assigned at birth. Further, any transgender person who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria will not be allowed to join unless a doctor certifies they have been stable in their biological sex for 36 months and they have not transitioned to the gender as which they identify.

Troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria after they join the military can be discharged if they are “unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with their biological sex,” a Pentagon memo on the policy says.

The policy grandfathers in currently serving troops who have already come out, meaning they can continue serving openly and receiving medical care.

The Pentagon argues the policy is not a ban since currently serving transgender troops can continue to do so and other transgender people will be allowed to serve in their biological sex. But transgender troops and their advocates say it is effectively a transgender version of the defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned gay, lesbian and bisexual troops from serving openly.

Supporters of the administration’s decision have made their case by pointing to medical costs and the need for military focus.

“Our all-voluntary military is the greatest military force in the world and we must allow it — we must allow it to make the best medical and military judgment about what medical conditions should qualify or disqualify an individual from serving,” Rep. Vicky HartzlerVicky Jo HartzlerGOP lawmakers express concerns about Giuliani's work in Ukraine House approves amendment to reverse transgender military ban The House-passed bills that have ended up in the Senate 'graveyard' MORE (R-Mo.).

“We should not carve out exceptions for an entire population. Military service is a privilege, not a right. That is why [former Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis reviewed and issued a new policy on transgender service and the medical condition of gender dysphoria. The policy is not a ban. It allows transgender service members to serve in their biological sex. The Mattis policy does not kick anyone out of the military for being transgender, nor does it give preferential treatment to transgender persons.”

The resolution is not expected to see any movement in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierPelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Speier to call on IG investigation into Navy chief's firing Nunes faces potential ethics review over alleged meeting with Ukrainian official MORE (D-Calif.) introduced separate legislation that would allow transgender people to serve in the military.

On the House floor, Smith said the Armed Services Committee will also draft legislation addressing the issue.

“This is a messaging bill, and the message is: This is a bad policy,” Smith said of Thursday’s vote. “When it comes to crafting the right policy in this area, it should be done in committee, and it will be done in committee. That’s why we didn’t bring that out here on the floor.”

Four lawsuits against Trump’s policy are still pending. Courts ruled to lift the four holds that had been placed on the policy while the lawsuits are pending, but have not ruled on the underlying merits of the cases. Those suing have vowed to press on and have expressed confidence they will ultimately prevail.