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House Rules Committee voting on anti-transgender National Defense Authorization Act amendment

Vicky Hartzler

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) introduced an amendment onto the National Defense Authorization Act Wednesday evening that would deny health care coverage for transgender service members and their military dependents. Hartzler earlier tried to ban transgender people from serving altogether in the House Armed Services Committee, and when that failed, she turned to a new amendment that would exclude health care coverage for military service members and their families.

The amendment made it through the House Rules Committee and will be considered on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives today.  This is the first time ever that the U.S. House will debate and vote on an anti-transgender amendment.

“This is just the latest example of GOP extremists’ commitment to standing on the side of bullies and bigots. Transgender service members and their families, like all of those serving in the military, make sacrifices for this country each and every day that we should be celebrating and honoring. Instead, Rep. Hartzler, driven by her insatiable desire to harm transgender service members, seeks to deny these brave men and women and their families the health care that they need,” said Lambda Legal Attorney Sasha Buchert.  “As one of the thousands of transgender veterans, I am shocked to see Rep. Hartzler use her position of public trust to attack, rather than support, the men and women of our armed forces. The fact that the Republican leadership in the House would allow her amendment to move forward is even more despicable, and demonstrates their callous disregard for the transgender men and women who put their lives on the line to protect and defend us. Our more than 15,000 transgender service members deserve better than this. All Americans who claim to support the men and women serving our country should raise their voices in protest.”

“We unequivocally condemn Harztler’s attempt at this amendment,” said Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN, Matt Thorn. “This amendment is a mean-spirited, unconstitutional attempt to impede the recruitment of openly transgender individuals who want to serve their country. Transgender service members have been serving, openly and authentically, since October 2016 with no impact on readiness. Yet Rep. Hartzler imagines it proper to deny those individuals the opportunity to serve. Hartzler is not the Secretary of Defense and her comments about trans service members being akin to ISIS is unpatriotic in the extreme.”

Thorn continued, “The Hartzler Amendment does nothing to support the lethality and readiness of our troops. Instead, it will hamper the military’s efforts to recruit the most qualified individuals who have expressed a desire to honorably and capably serve the country. There’s no reason for this Amendment; we already tried Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and rightfully decided it was bad policy.”

“To be clear, this vile amendment is a vicious attack on service members who are sacrificing so much and putting their lives on the line for our country,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “As if that’s not outrageous enough, it would also rip away the medically necessary health care of transgender family members. This is vitally important care that military families are already receiving, and these medical decisions should be left to medical professionals and their patients. This legislative assault on military families absolutely must be stopped. We urge members of Congress to reject this cruel proposal.”

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus denounced Hartzler’s amendment. “Rep. Hartzler’s misguided amendment effectively bans patriotic transgender Americans from serving their country in uniform,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02).  “The defense bill is supposed to be about how to best keep our country safe.  Decisions about medical care should be made by doctors based on contemporary medical standards of care—not Congress.  If any service member isn’t able to access the health care doctors determine is needed, that harms readiness.  I trust our colleagues will reject this hateful attack on the transgender community.”

June 30, 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the military.  The policy change was implemented in stages, with the final stage—removing the ban on transgender people acceding into the services—scheduled to be implemented on January 1, 2018.  Transgender people already serving are currently able to serve openly.

“Bigotry is the last thing this country should offer any brave man or woman who volunteers to defend us,” said Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), Chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force.  “By inserting Congress into the personal medical decisions of certain service members, this amendment tells thousands of Americans willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice that they are not entitled to the same rights as the soldier they stand next to. Transgender Americans, in uniform or not, deserve better than this hateful amendment from those elected to represent them.”

In 2015, the Department of Defense commissioned the RAND Corporation to conduct a study on the impact of lifting the ban on transgender service.  RAND’s year-long, wide ranging and comprehensive study found that open service has “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”  RAND’s study also found that the cost of transition-related health care would only be a 0.04% increase in active-component health care expenditures for coverage of transgender service members.

“Transgender service members are not asking for any ‘special’ rights, they simply want to serve their country,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Executive Director Roddy Flynn.  “Rep. Hartzler’s amendment specifically targets transgender people for exclusion from certain kinds of medical care available to cisgender service members.  For example, under the Hartzler amendment, hormone treatment is banned only if the patient is transgender.  Cisgender service members could take hormones for birth control, to treat a gynecological condition, or other conditions requiring hormone replacement therapy; but it is uniquely banned for transgender people.”

Current estimates from the Palm Center indicate there are over 15,000 transgender servicemembers currently serving in the U.S. armed forces, including 8,800 in the active component and 6,650 in the National Guard and reserve components.

Since October 2016, it has been the policy of the Department of Defense to allow transgender members of the armed forces to serve openly and authentically. Each service branch has been charged with defining its own policies related to the accession of new recruits who are openly transgender, and these policies are expected to be announced on January 1, 2018. Estimates show there are more than 15,500 transgender individuals currently serving in the armed services.

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Posted by on Jul 13, 2017. Filed under Around the Nation, Breaking News, Top Highlights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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