Legislation protecting transgender service members introduced
March 29, 2023

House Democrats have introduced legislation aimed at preventing the Department of Defense from discriminating against transgender individuals who want to serve in the military.

The bill is a response to the Republican push to reinstate the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, which was put in place by former President Donald Trump and later lifted by President Joe Biden.

The proposed legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), would prohibit the Department of Defense from discriminating against transgender individuals who want to enlist or are currently serving. The bill is co-sponsored by 22 other House Democrats, including Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

“Anyone willing and able to serve our country should be able to serve authentically,” said Jacobs, who is also vice chair of the Congressional Equity Caucus and co-chair of the Transgender Equality Taskforce. “Discrimination of all kinds, especially against the transgender and gender non-conforming communities, prevents our military from recruiting and retaining the best and brightest.”

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump announced that the military would “not accept or allow… transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.” The policy was met with widespread condemnation and legal challenges, with courts ultimately ruling that the ban was unconstitutional.

Biden reversed the ban soon after taking office, but Republicans have been looking to bring it back. In February, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) proposed legislation to again prohibit anyone with a “history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria from serving the military,” with only some limited exceptions.

They argue that instead of having cultural debates, the military should focus on achieving its recruitment targets which it has not been able to achieve for a couple of years. They argue that the USA is currently facing many external threats with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s increasing economic and military dominance in the world.

Under the GOP bill, all transgender people or those with a history of gender dysphoria would be banned from military service unless they have been stable in their biological sex for three years prior to joining. Anyone seeking gender reassignment surgery and those who have already had surgery would also be banned.

The proposed legislation has been met with significant criticism from advocates for transgender rights, who argue that it unfairly targets transgender individuals and denies them the opportunity to serve their country based solely on their gender identity.

Critics of the proposed legislation also argue that policies that discriminate against transgender individuals not only harm military readiness by preventing qualified individuals from serving but also send a message that the military is not a welcoming or inclusive environment for all.

As the debate over transgender rights in the military continues, it remains to be seen how lawmakers will navigate the competing priorities of promoting inclusivity and diversity in the military while also ensuring national security.

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