**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, ranking member of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate Floor to urge her colleagues to vote on a bipartisan amendment to prevent the Department of Defense (DoD) from removing qualified service members from the Armed Forces based solely on their gender identity. Senator Gillibrand’s amendment with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) is supported by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:
I rise to urge my colleagues to vote for a bipartisan amendment, number 1051, to protect transgender service members in our military.
I want to thank my dear friend and colleague, Senator McCain, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and his staff, for working with us on this bipartisan amendment to protect transgender service members, and for agreeing to support it here on the floor today.
The amendment, which I was so proud to write with my Republican colleague from Maine, Senator Susan Collins, would prohibit the Department of Defense from discharging members of the military, or denying them re-enlistment opportunities, because of their gender identity.
It is essential that this Congress does not “break faith” with these brave service members, who have served their country honorably with great sacrifice.
As members of the Senate, one of our most serious responsibilities is to stand up for the men and women who serve in our Armed Services.
We have an obligation to represent their interests to value and respect their service to give them the tools and resources they need to defend our country.
Kicking out thousands of service members simply because of their gender identity doesn’t make our military stronger –it makes our military weaker.
It doesn’t save taxpayer money –it wastes taxpayer money.
We have spent millions recruiting and training these highly skilled service members.
And I want to be clear to those who misunderstand our United States military members – to those who somehow think our military cannot handle diversity among its service members.
Do not underestimate the men and women who serve in uniform.
They represent the best and strongest among us.
An argument against diversity in the military is wrong.
We heard this argument during the fight to end racial segregation.
We heard it during the fight to allow women to serve.
We heard it during the fight to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which I was proud to work on with Republican Senator from Maine once again.
And here, once again, this argument is wrong.
Our military is strongest when it represents the nation it serves.
So rather than shrinking the talent pool and telling patriotic Americans that they cannot serve, we should be doing everything we can to encourage them and support them.
We should thank them for their devotion to service, for their willingness to leave their families for months at a time, and risk their own lives and safety to protect us.
This transgender ban affects individuals who were brave enough to join the United States military.
Men and women who were tough enough to make it through rigorous military training.
Men and women who love our country enough to risk their lives for it – to fight for it – to even die for it.
To suggest these brave, tough, and selfless transgender Americans somehow don’t belong in our military is harmful to our military readiness and deeply insulting to our troops.
Don’t tell me that U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland – who deployed to Afghanistan, has earned numerous commendations since the ban on transgender service was lifted – should be kicked out of our military.
Don’t tell me the young recruit like U.S. Marine Aaron Wixson – who left college to enlist in the field artillery and worked diligently with his chain of command during his gender transition to meet every requirement asked of him – should be kicked out of the military.
And do not tell me that Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann who identified as transgender while serving in Afghanistan, has deployed 11 times, and won the Navy’s highest logistics award, and now shapes our military policy at the Pentagon.
Don’t tell me he should be kicked out of the military.
Any individual serving in our military today who meets the standards, should be allowed to serve.
So I urge my colleagues to join me and the Republican Senator from Maine and Senator John McCain on our bipartisan amendment to allow transgender men and women to stay in the military, and continue to serve our country and keep us safe.
I yield the floor.