House Votes Down Proposed Ban on Military-Funded Transgender Surgeries

Camille Francis
July 15, 2017

In a tight vote Thursday, the House shot down a bill that would have eliminated government funding for gender affirmation surgery and hormone therapy for transgender troops.

"This was a horrifying, vicious attack on service members and military family members, and our families were beside themselves in fear", said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis decided late last month to give the military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if letting transgender people enlist in the armed services will affect the "readiness or lethality" of the force.

Democrats, for whom the LGBT community is a major constituent, opposed the amendment on grounds that all Americans should have a chance to serve and receive medical treatment. "This current policy of providing and paying for transgender surgeries hurts readiness". "Transgender Americans, in uniform or not, deserve better than this hateful amendment from those elected to represent them". LGBT Equality Caucus executive director Roddy Flynn told LGBT Weekly that the law would have specifically stripped transgender soldiers of medical care that's readily available to cisgender troops under the military's health care coverage.

To justify that blatantly discriminatory act, Hartzler has seemingly invented the statistic that trans military service will cost the military $1.35 billion over the first ten years.

It was one of 122 amendments voted on by the House.

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Rep. Hartzler's new amendment - which prohibits the Department of Defense from providing medical treatment for transition-related services - was given the green light by House Republican leadership late Wednesday. LGBT military groups OutServe-SLDN and the American Military Partner Association called it a "vicious attack" created to block transgender people from enlisting for service at all by denying them basic health care. "This amendment is a mean-spirited, unconstitutional attempt to impede the recruitment of openly transgender individuals who want to serve their country".

Earlier this month, Rep. Hartzler withdrew an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have gone a step further-calling for a complete reversal of the Obama-era policy allowing transgender troops to serve openly.

"This amendment would put the health of members of our military and their families at risk by undermining the ability of military doctors to provide care for their patients", Thompson said in a statement.

"The Hartzler Amendment is specifically created to discriminate against transgender members of the Armed Forces and their families", Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the ACLU, stated.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the Armed Services Committee's top Democrat said, "This amendment takes us in the wrong direction ..." He called the Democrats' objections "the silliest opposition to an amendment I've ever heard".

A Pentagon-commissioned study by the RAND corporation on the cost of gender transition-related health care for transgender personnel found that it would cost the DOD between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. "This is a social agenda that has no business being in the defense bill".

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