Washington, DC — U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced 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. Transgender troops have been openly serving in the military since June 2016. This legislation comes after Senate leadership cut off debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Senate did not get an opportunity to vote on the bipartisan amendment introduced by Gillibrand and Collins, and supported by McCain and Reed, that would have achieved the same goal.
“When less than one percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country,” said Senator McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve—including those who are transgender. The Senate Armed Services Committee will review the results of the DOD study on accession and will continue to work closely with our military leaders on any policy changes as we conduct oversight on this important issue.”
“Despite being denied a vote on my bipartisan amendment to defend our transgender service members, we are not giving up in this fight,” said Senator Gillibrand, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel. “I am so grateful to Chairman McCain, Senator Collins, and Ranking Member Reed for joining me to introduce this bipartisan bill to block the Defense Department from kicking transgender troops out of our military. Thousands of brave transgender Americans love our country enough to risk their lives for it, fight for it, and even die for it, and Congress should honor them and let them serve. Doing otherwise would only harm our readiness at a time when our military is deployed around the world in defense of our country. I am proud to lead this fight in the Senate, and I urge all of my colleagues to join us in supporting this bill.”
“Our armed forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” said Senator Collins. “If individuals are willing to put on the uniform of our country, be deployed in war zones, 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.”
“The President has manufactured a crisis for political reasons, one that is discriminatory and deeply harmful to those currently serving. Transgender service members deployed today are serving with honor and distinction. The last thing they need while serving in a combat zone is to worry about being involuntarily separated,” said Senator Reed. “Congress needs to act on a bipartisan basis to do what is best for our country and national security, and that includes overturning President Trump’s poorly conceived transgender ban.”
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Express a sense of Congress that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve;
- Prohibit DoD from involuntarily separating, or denying the reenlistment or continuation in service in the Armed Forces of currently serving transgender service members solely on the basis of the member’s gender identity; and
- Require Secretary Mattis to complete his review of accession of transgender individuals into the Armed Forces by the end of this year and report the results to Congress.
In July, Senators Gillibrand and Collins, along with Senator Reed and 42 other Senators, sent a letter to Secretary Mattis urging him to refrain from discharging transgender service members until the DoD concludes its review of accessions. 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” and securing a commitment from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin to hold a committee hearing on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in February 2010. This was the first Senate hearing on the policy since 1993 – a major step toward the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”