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House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban

House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban
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The House voted Tuesday night to block the Pentagon from using funding to implement its ban on most transgender troops.

The 243-183 vote came as an amendment to a $1 trillion spending package that includes the fiscal 2020 defense spending bill.

“The president and his administration wrongfully argue that it’s about military readiness and unit cohesion, but these arguments were the same ones that were used to keep the military racially segregated,” Rep. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Esper reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases | Enemy attacks in Afghanistan jump by 50 percent, watchdog says | Fort Hood soldier arrested, charged in Chelsea Cheatham killing Esper, amid resignation talk, reportedly working with lawmakers to strip Confederate names from bases MORE (D-Md.) said on the House floor. “Transgender service members increase lethality, readiness. They have served honorably and received prestigious commendations.”

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One Democrat, Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonA louder voice for women everywhere Former Minnesota Democratic leader quits party GOP sees path to House majority in 2022 MORE (Minn.), voted against the amendment.

The House previously voted in March to condemn the Trump administration’s transgender troops policy. At that time, five Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the measure.

The Pentagon’s policy, which took effect in April, bans most transgender people from serving in the military unless they serve in their biological sex or were grandfathered in under the 2016 open-service policy.

The Trump administration and its allies deny the policy is a ban because of the carve-outs.

“This amendment risks undermining the readiness of our military at a time when we can least afford it,” Rep. Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R-Calif.) said on the floor. “This current policy is not, I repeat, not a ban on service by transgender individuals. It carefully balances the readiness needs of the military with the medical needs of transgender individuals who wish to serve.”

Opponents argue the policy effectively is a ban akin to the defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that banned gay, lesbian and bisexual troops from serving openly.

Four lawsuits against the policy are still pending.

The March resolution against the policy was nonbinding, whereas Tuesday’s amendment would have an effect if it were to become law.

But the amendment is unlikely to become law. Still, LGBT advocates were tracking the House vote as sending a message.

"Military leaders don’t want this ban and the American people don’t want this ban -- including a growing percentage of the president’s own party," Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement Wednesday. "We won’t stop fighting in the courts to end the ban for good, and we applaud members of Congress for continuing to fight for our transgender service members as well.”

House Democrats are also expected to bring a transgender troops amendment to the floor when they debate the annual defense policy bill in the coming weeks.

Updated at 9:24 a.m. Wednesday