December 2, 2023

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LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus Trans Equality Task Force chairs named

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced a proposal on Thursday to ban Americans who have a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The lawmakers’ “Ensuring Military Readiness Act” would go further than the transgender military ban enacted in 2017 under former President Donald Trump that was revoked by President Joe Biden just five days after his inauguration in January 2021.

For example, according to a press release from Rubio’s office announcing the legislation, the measure “adds more stringent requirements and revamps the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) to ensure all service members’ gender markers match their biological sex.”

Rubio and Banks characterized the Biden administration’s revocation of the Trump era ban as, respectively, a move that “turned our military into a woke social experiment” and a “purely political” decision grounded in “far left ideology.”

Republican U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) and Mike Braun (Ind.) are the original cosponsors for the bill, which has been endorsed by a coalition of right-wing organizations including the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group.

Spokespeople for Rubio and Banks did not immediately respond to questions about whether efforts would be better spent helping service members and their families with real challenges like housing affordability and food insecurity, or whether they could provide evidence that Biden’s reversal of the Trump-era ban negatively impacted the readiness or performance of the U.S. Armed Services.

The White House shared an exclusive statement to the Washington Blade on Friday afternoon:

“There are a lot of things Marco Rubio could be working on for the American people, including:

  • Keeping Americans safe from gun violence with common sense gun legislation
  • Lowering prescription drug prices for America’s seniors, including a universal insulin cap
  • Protecting and strengthening Medicare and Social Security for America’s seniors.

But at a time when recruiting is a critical priority for our military, Sen. Rubio is instead focusing on blocking patriotic transgender Americans who would die for the United States of America from serving our country. That says a lot more about his priorities than it does about the brave transgender Americans willing to fight and die for our country.”

As Rubio and Banks announced their proposed ban on Thursday, a bipartisan group lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee led by U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced a bill that would aid service members and their families who are experiencing hunger and food insecurity.

Alongs with the White House, several Democratic members of Congress and LGBTQ groups have come out against the Republicans’ new proposed trans military ban.

“I oppose this bill,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) told the Blade in an emailed statement on Friday. “I serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and see no reason for the military to discriminate against transgender Americans,” the senator wrote.

In 2017, Kaine urged then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to halt the implementation of Trump’s transgender military ban in a letter co-authored by Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) that was signed by 42 of their colleagues in the chamber from both parties.

“Banning transgender people from the military is wrong and discriminatory, and it violates our national values by denying people the ability to serve simply because of who they are,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement to The Blade.

“Transgender Americans, just like anyone else in this country, should be judged on whether or not they can get the job done, no more, no less,” he said. “This legislation continues the harmful political attacks against our community that try to push us out of places where we live, learn and work.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) addressed the GOP Senators’ proposal for a new ban on transgender troops in a tweet published Friday afternoon: “President Biden stood up and undid this ridiculous MAGA Trump ban,” the senator wrote. “Whether trans or otherwise, if you’re qualified you should be permitted to serve. We honor everyone willing to risk their lives to serve our country.”

The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus also responded to Rubio and Banks’s proposal on Twitter, writing: “Just two months into the new Congress, anti-LGBTQI+ Republicans are going after our troops. Our trans servicemembers support our country’s military readiness and national security. This bill would effectively bar trans servicemembers from serving openly.”

In addition to revoking the previous administration’s ban on trans military service, the Biden-Harris White House has taken important steps toward LGBTQ equity and equality, particularly for trans Americans, on a variety of fronts.

Issued on Thursday, the White House’s Executive Order to Strengthen Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Across the Federal Government instructs the heads of U.S. federal agencies to submit Equity Action Plans pursuant to previous executive actions including Biden’s June 2022’s Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Individuals.

The new executive order notes achievements over the past couple of years including policies “prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics across Federal programs” and the establishment of a National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.

The administration has also been lauded for the record number of LGBTQ political appointees that have been nominated and confirmed.

Among them is Adm. Rachel Levine, who was appointed to the role of assistant secretary for health and human services under the Biden-Harris administration, became the first woman four-star admiral and the first transgender four-star officer in any uniformed service when she was tapped to lead the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in 2021.