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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 KennedyConor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania Van Drew fends off challenge from Kennedy after party switch Markey wins reelection in Massachusetts 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 KatkoRundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Republicans who could serve in a Biden government Fitzpatrick wins reelection in Pennsylvania 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 TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge 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 HurdHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (Texas), Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDivided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  Fitzpatrick wins reelection in Pennsylvania MORE (Pa.). One Republican, Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashIncoming GOP lawmaker shares video of hotel room workout, citing 'Democrat tyrannical control' Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Romney congratulates Biden after victory 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 SmithTrump rails against Twitter in late night tweets The pandemic and a 'rainy day fund' for American charity House Democrat accuses Air Force of attempting to influence Georgia runoff races 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 SpeierDemocratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Pentagon puts on show of force as questions circle on COVID-19 outbreak Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety 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.