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Senators Reed, Gillibrand, and Collins introduce bipartisan legislation to protect transgender service members



[From a press release:]

Following the recent United States Supreme Court ruling that will allow President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military service to go into effect, United States Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat, New York), Susan Collins (Republican, Maine), and Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) today introduced new bipartisan legislation to protect transgender service members. This bill would protect currently serving transgender service members and continue to allow new transgender service members to join the military. The Senators introduced similar bipartisan legislation with the late Senator John McCain last Congress to defend transgender troops.

The Chiefs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and the Commandant of the Marine Corps all testified that open transgender service has had no negative effect on unit cohesion, discipline, or morale. Their testimonies were made in response to Senator Gillibrand’s questions at four Senate Armed Services Committee hearings. The Commandant of the Coast Guard separately testified to the same effect. This legislation has been updated to protect all current and future transgender Americans who meet the standards and want to serve in the Armed Forces. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (Democrat, California) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives along with Representatives Joseph Kennedy (Democrat, Massachusetts), John Katko (Republican, New York), Susan Davis (Democrat, California), and Anthony Brown (Democrat, Maryland).

“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 Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Personnel. “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. 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. 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.”

“As one of the leaders in the successful effort to repeal the military’s discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, I strongly believe that anyone who is qualified, able to be deployed into war zones, and wants to serve should continue to be allowed to do so, including our transgender troops. 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,” said Senator Collins.

“There are thousands of transgender Americans serving in our Armed Forces today with courage, honor, and distinction. Our troops defend the rights and freedoms of all Americans. We must not allow bigotry to impede our military’s critical mission,” said Senator Reed, a former Army Ranger and the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee. “This bipartisan bill would overturn the Trump Administration’s ill-conceived policy and protect those who voluntarily put their lives on the line for the security of this nation.”

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“We must fight the Trump administration’s effort to implement their discriminatory and unconstitutional ban on military service by transgender people on all fronts. This new bipartisan legislation would stop this bigoted ban once and for all. Transgender service members, like those represented by the ACLU in our legal challenge, have proven that they have the courage and capacity to serve in our nation’s armed forces. Members of Congress who oppose this ban must act to make sure the administration cannot implement it,” said Ian Thompson, Senior Legislative Representative, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“This bill affirms that anyone who meets military standards should be able to serve their country. We appreciate that Congress is stepping in to protect our troops,” said Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

“No qualified service member or recruit should be denied the opportunity to serve their country because of their gender identity,” said HRC 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 — and we thank Senators Gillibrand, Collins, and Reed for their steadfast leadership on this critical issue.”

“We applaud Congress for recognizing that all service members deserve our nation’s gratitude and respect,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“This bill is urgently needed to protect the thousands of transgender servicemembers who could be discarded or forced to serve in silence and fear. Despite this President’s dangerous attempt to institute prejudice and bigotry into our armed forces, the American people know such irrational bias has no place in the military. We thank Senators Gillibrand, Reed, and Collins for leading this historic measure and we urge every Senator to back this bill as the necessary and moral thing to do,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“We applaud Senators Gillibrand, Reed, and Collins for their commitment to ensuring open and authentic service for our transgender siblings-in-arms,” said OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Andy Blevins. “For the last two-and-a-half years, these selfless patriots have proven time and again that they are not only qualified to accomplish the mission, but that our Armed Forces are more efficient and effective because of their authenticity. It is time that we, as a nation, honor the service of these service members and hopeful recruits by ensuring baseless and discriminatory rationalizations not be allowed to define military policy.”

“This bill affirms the science behind repeated studies by the U.S. military, foreign militaries, and health and security experts — open service works and contributes to military readiness and U.S. national security,” said Dr Aaron Belkin, Director of The Palm Center.

“We appreciate our leaders efforts to codify the dignity of service, so as to allow all those who are capable the opportunity to defend the Constitution and our Nation,” said Blake Dremann, President of SPARTA.

Specifically, this legislation would do the following:

  • Express a sense of Congress that anyone who is qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve, and the Trump Administration’s discriminatory ban and policies are inconsistent with this goal;
  • Prohibit DoD from involuntarily separating, or denying the reenlistment or continuation of service in the Armed Forces of currently serving transgender service members solely on the basis of the member’s gender identity; and
  • State that an individual may not be denied initial enlistment, commissioning, or other accession into the Armed Forces solely on the basis of their gender identity. 

In September 2017, Gillibrand, Collins, Reed and the late Senator John McCain introduced similar legislation to protect transgender service members. In July 2017, Gillibrand, Collins, Reed and 42 other Senators sent a letter to Secretary Mattis urging him to refrain from discharging transgender service members until the DoD concluded its review of transgender military service. Senator Collins was the lead Republican in the successful effort to repeal the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in December 2010.  Senator Gillibrand also helped lead the charge in the Senate to repeal this discriminatory, harmful policy to strengthen our military by building support for an 18-month moratorium on enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Senator Gillibrand brought decorated transgender Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann, who has been deployed 11 times and won the Navy’s highest logistics award, to this year’s State of the Union address.

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