Press Release

Veterans And LGBTQ Advocacy Groups Voice Support For Gillibrand-Collins Amendment To Grant Non-Discrimination Protections For Transgender Service Members

Jul 1, 2020

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that leading veteran and LGBTQ advocacy groups are backing their amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would grant anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people to transgender service members. The senators’ amendment would ensure that transgender service members receive anti-discrimination protections like those enjoyed by every 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. The bipartisan legislation has been cosponsored by more than 20 senators. 

“We support all efforts to ensure our Nation’s military attracts and retains the best people our country has to offer. The amendment from Senator Gillibrand and Senator Collins provides opportunities for all Americans to serve with distinction and for the military to harness the talents of all who are qualified,” said Emma Shinn, President of SPART*A, the nation’s leading transgender military service organization. “The Senate should pass this bipartisan amendment, enhancing the military’s capacity and capability to defend our nation.”

“What matters for military service is whether you are capable and qualified to serve — not your gender identity, sexual orientation, or anything else that has nothing to do with the ability to accomplish the mission,” said Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) Interim Executive Director Jennifer Dane. “It’s far past time that Congress pass these crucially important protections into law so that every service member is protected from unjust discrimination and can focus on serving their country. We applaud Senators Gillibrand and Collins for their leadership on this important issue and are thankful for their resolve to ensure we support all of our brave patriots and their families.” 

“Transgender service members have served openly with distinction for years, and they deserve nothing less than the respect of a grateful nation,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. ”The Trump-Pence administration’s trans troop ban goes against medical experts, military leadership and budget analysts; it is unsound, unpopular, and unpatriotic. The amendment offered in the NDAA would codify non-discrimination protections in the military to end the ban on the transgender military service and send a powerful a message to our transgender troops, their families, and their fellow service members that they have our country’s full support.” 

“This amendment would clarify what everyone knows—that President Trump’s capricious ban on trans military service is wrong and dangerous,” according to Mara Keisling Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “There is national consensus that trans service members are an asset to our military and discrimination is never okay.”

“At a time when the military is struggling to fill its ranks with qualified personnel, it makes no sense to bar service by some individuals for reasons that have nothing to do with the ability to serve,” said Dr. Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center. “Senators Gillibrand and Collins’ proposal writes into law what we know from research, military leaders, and medical experts, and what’s supported by Republicans, Democrats, and service members themselves: that gender identity and sexual orientation are no bar to serving our country bravely and well. The Supreme Court, the American public, and active-duty service members have all signaled that it’s past time to end discrimination on the job; now it’s time for the military—so often a leader in embracing the diversity of American life—to catch up.” 

“We support this important amendment to the NDAA, as it makes clear that a person who is willing and able to serve their country should not be denied that opportunity simply because they are transgender,” said Sharon McGowan, Legal Director and Chief Strategy Officer at Lambda Legal. “It has been almost three years since we filed suit challenging the Trump administration’s policies driving transgender service members either out of the military or back into the closet. And what we hear consistently from the individuals we represent, both active servicemembers and those seeking to enlist, is that they simply wish to be held to the same standards as everyone else. We hope that the Congress will finally intervene and, for the good of the country, bring this irrational and discriminatory ban to an end.”  

“We applaud this effort to ensure that qualified Americans of all backgrounds – including transgender Americans – are able to serve in the military on equal terms,” said Transgender Rights Project Director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Jennifer L. Levi. “The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County makes crystal clear that adverse treatment against transgender people is sex discrimination, a classification subject to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection guarantee of the United States Constitution. The transgender military ban weakens and destabilizes the military, violates our Constitution’s promise of equality, and must end.” 

“It’s long past time to defeat President Trump’s despicable ban on transgender military service,” said Will Goodwin, Director of Government Relations for VoteVets. “The strength of our military stems from the men and women who fill its ranks, including thousands of brave transgender service members and their families. Ensuring equality in the U.S. military is a matter of national security — and doing so requires passing Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan amendment into law. We are grateful to the Senator for her tireless leadership in the fight for equality.” 

“Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) stands in support of our transgender troops and veterans and in support of equality,” said Jeremy Butler, IAVA’s Chief Executive Officer. “With the recent Supreme Court decision extending protections for LGTBQ individuals in the private sector, it is past time for the Department of Defense to ensure that transgender servicemembers are offered those same protections. IAVA thanks Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Susan Collins for introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to ensure these protections for our transgender troops.”

“We applaud the efforts and leadership of Senators Gillibrand and Collins, as they work to ensure all able, willing, and qualified individuals have the opportunity to serve their country openly and authentically, and without fear of reprisal or retribution,” said Navy Veteran and Minority Veterans of America Executive Director Lindsay Church. “We call upon our nation’s legislators to stand up against the capricious discrimination of the Trump-Pence Administration and pass this important measure.”   

“This is a fundamental issue of fairness,” said the Center for American Progress’s vice president for National Security and International Policy, Kelly Magsamen. “Those who want to volunteer to serve our country should not be discriminated against on the basis of any gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. The Supreme Court has ruled and the Department of Defense should consider this matter resolved and lift the ban against transgender service members immediately. Full stop.”