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 KennedyDemocrats see fundraising spike following Ginsburg death Massachusetts town clerk resigns after delays to primary vote count Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 KatkoHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses Underwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel 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 TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts 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 HollingsworthHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research The Hill's 12:30 Report: Presidential race tightens in key states MORE (Ind.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE (Texas), Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedCentrist House group offers bipartisan COVID-19 relief deal House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic Diabetes Caucus co-chairs say telehealth expansion to continue beyond pandemic MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum DCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program MORE (Pa.). One Republican, Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashRon Paul hospitalized in Texas Internal Democratic poll shows tight race in contest to replace Amash Centrist Democrats 'strongly considering' discharge petition on GOP PPP bill 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: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds 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 HartzlerMissouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler wins GOP primary Wuhan is the final straw: The world needs to divest from China On The Money: Hopes fade for coronavirus relief deal this month | Burr problem grows for GOP | Layoffs hit record high of 11 million in March 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 SpeierOvernight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral 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.