June 25, 2020

Following LGBTQ SCOTUS Ruling, Gillibrand, Collins Introduce Amendment To Defense Bill To Give Transgender Service Members Anti-Discrimination Protections

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would grant anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people to transgender service members. 

In landmark decision on Monday, June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, courts have previously ruled that Title VII protections against discrimination do not extend to uniformed members of the military, an inequity thrown into stark relief by the current ban on transgender service members. The senators’ amendment would ensure that transgender service members receive anti-discrimination protections like those enjoyed by very other American, and would affirm that all Americans have the right to join and serve in the military, regardless of their race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin. 

“Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from workplace discrimination, we must ensure these protections are extended to every American, especially transgender service members who are willing to risk their lives for our country and make extraordinary sacrifices for our freedoms,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Anyone who can meet the military’s standard should be allowed to serve and the current ban on transgender service members is an insult to every LGBTQ person who has given their life to protect our nation. I am proud to introduce this amendment, which will extend non-discrimination protections to service members and will ensure that anyone who can meet the military’s standard can serve, regardless of gender identity.”

“As one of the leaders in the successful effort to repeal the 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,” said Senator Collins. “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. This amendment does just that, and I encourage our colleagues to support it as the Senate turns to take up this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.”

The arguments against open transgender service lack basis in experience or science. Transgender individuals served openly in the military for over two and a half years without any readiness or cohesion issues, a fact confirmed by all four service chiefs and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and other experts agree that there is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from service. Barriers that constrain the ability of transgender individuals to fully, openly serve—such as by preventing even an individual who has transitioned genders, and is now stable, from serving in the gender to which they transitioned—are unnecessarily limiting.  

Senators Gillibrand and Collins have led the effort to protect transgender service members from discrimination. In 2017, Gillibrand, Collins and Jack Reed (D-RI) joined the late Senator John McCain to introduce a bipartisan bill that would protect transgender service members by preventing the Department of Defense (DoD) from removing currently serving members of the Armed Forces based solely on their gender identity and introduced similar legislation in 2019. As ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Gillibrand has repeatedly pressed U.S. military leaders on trans service members’ ability to serve.