Bipartisan Bills to Protect Transgender Troops Introduced in House, Senate

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), one of the Senate bill's sponsors, meets members of the 106th Rescue Wing in 2012. Army photo by SrA. Christopher Muncy.

Two companion pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting transgender service members and securing transgender civilians’ right to join the US Armed Forces were introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on Feb. 7. Their introduction comes in the wake of a Jan. 22 Supreme Court order that paved the way for President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender service members to take effect despite ongoing lawsuits challenging it.

The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), would ban the Defense Department from kicking trans service members out of the military, and from denying them the chance to reenlist or continue serving based on their gender identities, a Feb. 7 release from Gillibrand’s office said. It would also declare that “initial enlistment, commissioning, or other accession” into the US military can’t be denied based on gender alone.

The parallel House bill was introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), and Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), according to a Feb. 7 release from Speier’s office.

Gillibrand, ranking member of the Senate Armed Service’s personnel subcommittee, called Trump’s ban on transgender troops “discrimination” that “undermines our military readiness.” Gillibrand called for an end to the ban, noting that all five US military service Chiefs told congressional legislators that trans-identifying individuals “are serving … without any problems.”

Reed cautioned against letting “bigotry” get in the way of “our military’s critical mission.”

“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,” he said in the release.

Speier, chair of the House Armed Services’s military personnel subcommittee, said the current ban on transgender troops is detrimental to readiness, moral, and the strength of the nation, and she called the House bill “solid common sense.”

Davis, a former chair and ranking member of HASC’s military personnel subcommittee, called the ban a potentially “disruptive distraction” from transgender service members’ “singular objective of protecting Americans.”