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A group of bipartisan lawmakers on Thursday introduced bills that would allow openly transgender people to enlist in the military and protect trans servicemembers who are already serving.
U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.) introduced House Resolution 1032 in the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) introduced an identical bill in the U.S. Senate.
The lawmakers introduced the bills less than three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court essentially allowed President Trump’s ban on trans servicemembers take effect.
Speier and U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) are among those who invited trans servicemembers to attend Tuesday’s State of the Union Address as their guests. Several lawsuits that challenge the Trump administration’s policy have also been filed.
“Our transgender servicemembers put their lives on the line every day despite an ill-advised edict from the president,” said Speier in a press release. “This bill makes it clear to our brave transgender troops that we see them and that we honor the risks they take and sacrifices that they and their families make for the safety of our country. It’s also solid common sense. The president’s ban is not only hateful and un-American, it harms military readiness and morale and ultimately makes our country less strong.”
Gillibrand, who is among the Democrats who have announced they are running for president in 2020, agreed.
“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,” said Gillibrand in a statement, noting the heads of all five military branches have spoken publicly in support of trans servicemembers in the armed forces.
“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,” she added. “That’s what our legislation would do, and 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.”
Advocates welcomed the bills.
“No qualified service member or recruit should be denied the opportunity to serve their country because of their gender identity,” said Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “A bipartisan chorus of members of Congress and an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s transgender troop ban. This legislation would help ensure that transgender service members and enlistees are respected and protected under the law.”
“Thousands of qualified, patriotic transgender Americans raised their right hands and pledged an oath to defend the United States by serving in the military,” added American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack in a separate statement. “Instead of being singled out by the Trump-Pence administration for discrimination, these brave, highly trained warriors deserve our nation’s utmost support and thanks. We are grateful for Senator Gillibrand, Congresswoman Speier, and the members of Congress who are standing behind our nation’s trans service members and making clear that any qualified American should be able to serve — regardless of their gender identity.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.