LGBTQ Groups Denounce Defense Bill for Not Ending Trans Military Ban

"This ban is based on bias, not evidence."

LGBTQ advocates have criticized the National Defense Authorization Act’s omission of an amendment that would have put an end to the Trump administration’s transgender military ban.

The House passed an amendment put forward by Rep. Jackie Speier as part of the annual defense authorization bill that would have repealed restrictions on trans military service members, but it did not find its way into the final version of the legislation.

A coalition of LGBTQ rights groups, including HRC, NCTE, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the Modern Military Association of America, NCLR, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the Palm Center, authored a letter saying they were “profoundly discouraged” by its exclusion.

“It is unconscionable that thousands of honorably serving transgender service members and their families will continue to live under the threat of discharge simply because of who they are,” the statement reads. “This ban is based on bias, not evidence, and is opposed by the American people, military experts, and elected officials across the political spectrum.”

transgender service members
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
Retired Army lieutenant colonel Ann Murdoch; Transgender American Veterans Association Vice President Gene Silvestri; Yvonne Cook-Riley; retired Army major and Transgender American Veterans Association President Evan Young; petty officer first class Alice Ashton; and retired Air Force major Nella Ludlow pose for a photo in Arlington National Cemetery after attending a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on June 8, 2018.

The defense spending bill does include a provision requiring the Defense Department to produce reports on waivers granted to trans enlistees, but so far it seems no such waivers have been granted and it is not clear if they even exist.

The bill also includes language based on an amendment introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan to codify a process for service members expelled under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to update their status from “other than honorable” or “dishonorable” to “honorable.”

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Drew Hammill, said she was “deeply disappointed” that the defense spending bill did not include the amendment to undo the trans military ban.

“Despite bipartisan passage of it in the House, Republican leadership and the White House refused to adopt this language and end this shameful ban,” Hammill is quoted by the Washington Blade as saying. “Democrats will continue fighting President Trump’s cruel transgender service member ban.”

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