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 KennedyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill How campaigns are adapting to coronavirus The Hill's Campaign Report: Three states holding primaries despite coronavirus 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 KatkoDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus To fight the rising tide of hate in our country, we must stop bias-based bullying in the classroom Hillicon Valley: House passes key surveillance bill | Paul, Lee urge Trump to kill FISA deal | White House seeks help from tech in coronavirus fight | Dem urges Pence to counter virus misinformation 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 TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill 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 HollingsworthThe housing affordability crisis is a reality: Lawmakers need to act, but responsibly Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation MORE (Ind.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 MORE (Texas), Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Overnight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' This week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill House approves pro-union labor bill MORE (Pa.). One Republican, Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashHouse Armed Services chairman calls for removal of Navy chief Overnight Defense: Trump 'may look into' dismissal of Navy captain | Acting Navy chief stands by speech calling ousted captain 'stupid' | Dems call for chief's firing | Hospital ship to take coronavirus patients Democratic lawmakers call for Navy chief's firing 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: Navy chief resigns over aircraft carrier controversy | Trump replaces Pentagon IG | Hospital ship crew member tests positive for coronavirus President tightens grip on federal watchdogs Navy chief resigns amid uproar over handling of aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis 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 SpeierOvernight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with outbreak | Trump to expand use of defense law to build ventilators | Hospital ships receiving few patients Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with coronavirus outbreak House Democrats eyeing much broader Phase 3 stimulus 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.