Defense

Gillibrand introduces bipartisan bill to allow transgender military service

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is vying to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020, introduced Thursday a bill to allow transgender people to serve in the military.

The bill, which was also introduced by Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), comes weeks after the Supreme Court paved the way for President Trump to begin implementing a ban on transgender military service.

“President Trump’s ban on transgender service members is discrimination, it undermines our military readiness, and it is an insult to the brave and patriotic transgender Americans who choose to serve in our military,” Gillibrand, an Armed Service Committee member, said in a statement. “We should end this discriminatory ban for good and ensure our transgender service members can continue to do their jobs, serve with dignity, and protect our country.”

In January, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stay two district court orders that blocked Trump’s policy from taking effect. The ruling allows the administration to temporarily enforce its restrictions on transgender people serving in the military.

The new policy still has not taken effect, though, because of one remaining injunction placed on it by a federal district court in Maryland.

Gillibrand, Reed, Collins and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced similar legislation in 2017, when Trump first announced his policy.

Trump first announced over Twitter in July 2017 that he intended to ban all transgender people from serving in the military.

Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis later released a policy in March 2018 that would allow transgender people to do so in their biological sex.

Transgender people and their advocates argued the policy was still effectively a ban akin to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.

The bill introduced Thursday would prohibit the Pentagon from discharging any currently serving member of the military solely on the basis of gender identity. It would also say that recruits cannot be denied entry into the military solely based on their gender identity.

“There are thousands of transgender Americans serving in our Armed Forces today with courage, honor, and distinction,” Reed said in a statement. “We must not allow bigotry to impede our military’s critical mission.”

In her own statement, Collins added that “if individuals are willing to put on the uniform of our country and risk their lives for our freedoms, then we should be expressing our gratitude to them, not trying to kick them out of the military.”

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) with Reps. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md) co-sponsoring the measure.

The bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate, but could get traction in the Democratic-controlled House.

It also serves as a statement from Gillibrand as she revs up her presidential campaign. Gillibrand invited a transgender service member to Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, and last year she questioned each of the military’s service chiefs on whether allowing open service from transgender people has caused any problems with unit cohesion, morale or discipline. 

“The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have all testified to Congress that transgender service members are serving in our military without any problems,” she said in Thursday’s statement. “I urge my colleagues in Congress to fight with me to overturn the President’s cruel and unnecessary ban, respect the transgender troops who are willing to die for our country, and pass this bipartisan bill now.”

Tags Anthony Brown Donald Trump Jack Reed Jackie Speier James Mattis John Katko John McCain Kirsten Gillibrand Susan Collins Susan Davis

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