UPDATE: It was a close call, but the House voted 209 to 214 to deny Rep. Vicky Hartzler's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would have prevented Transgender service members from accessing transition-related healthcare with military money.
The Human Rights Campaign said in a press release: "Today's vote sends a resounding message of support for our military families and transgender military personnel serving around the globe."
However, given the narrow margin of the vote, it is clear there is still much work to be done.
———————ORIGINAL POST 4:20 P.M. WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2017———————
Once again, the rights of transgender people have entered the public conversation. Rather than focusing on bathrooms — at the moment — this particular controversy stems from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ six-month stay on the induction of openly transgender recruits. As it stands, transgender people who are already in the military may serve, but openly transgender recruits are barred from enlisting. This was supposed to change on July 1, but military service chiefs from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps reportedly requested more time.
In May, graduating transgender Air Force Academy and West Point cadets were denied their commissions due to this policy. Now that the stay has gone into effect, certain lawmakers are questioning the inclusion of any transgender service members, some going as far as to advocate for rolling back the 2016 policy that allowed trans people to serve openly in the first place. Objections cite everything from affecting morale (i.e. upsetting straight, cisgender members of the military), affecting readiness and costing a pretty military penny.
columnist Heidi Beedle addressed the first two points in this week’s Queer & There
, but on the financial side: An extensive study
from the RAND Corporation explains that the cost of providing transition-related medical care to the small number of trans members of the military who seek such health care is “relatively low." Active-component health care costs would increase only between 2.4 million and 8.4 million per year. Given that the military budget for fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018) is more than 824 billion, that means that trans-related health care would likely cost the military a fraction of a percent of their total assets.
This study seems to have had no effect on the opinions of Rep. Vicky Hartzler and the other members of the Republican party who oppose transgender service. Hartzler recently offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to once again ban transgender people from serving in the military and, moreover, to honorably discharge any transgender troops currently serving.
Though Hartzler withdrew that amendment, she came back with a vengeance, and a new
amendment, on Friday — this one to bar any military funding from going toward medical care related to gender transition. That would include life-changing (and many would argue, life-saving
) hormone therapy and gender reassignment treatment.
All proposed amendments to the NDAA must go through the rules committee
before reaching the House for a vote. We will update this blog when we hear more.