By a vote of 242-187, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-discrimination amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would make eligible for military service any qualified individual who can meet standards, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion or sex — including gender identity or sexual orientation.
The Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) — the nation’s largest non-profit organization for the LGBTQ military and veteran community — hailed the bipartisan vote as an important step toward ending the Trump-Pence administration’s harmful transgender military ban. Final passage of the full NDAA is expected by the House tomorrow, and the legislation will then go to conference committee to be reconciled with the Senate version.
“This bipartisan vote sends a powerful message of support to the thousands of transgender service members that have been unconscionably singled out by this administration for discrimination,” said MMAA Executive Director and Navy veteran Andy Blevins. “Every service member should be treated with dignity and respect, and there should be no place in the military for harmful and discriminatory policies that have nothing to do with a service member’s ability to accomplish the mission. We urge Members of Congress to ensure this critically important non-discrimination amendment is included in the final legislation reconciled by both the House and Senate.
“This is a crucial moment for our elected officials to bring accountability to a reckless and lawless policy,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “This bigoted ban has brought chaos to prospective recruits, active duty servicemembers, and countless families forced to watch their dedication and duty soiled by a self-interested President. The military wants and needs qualified transgender people, and we applaud this action by the House to ensure that every person willing and able to serve is allowed to serve. It will now be up to the Conference Committee and the President whether to embrace equal opportunity or discrimination.”
On Tuesday, MMAA released a letter signed by prominent military, veteran and national security leaders and organizations urging Congress to pass the amendment. Signed by major national organizations such as the National Military Family Association, Blue Star Families, and others, along with numerous military and national security experts, such as the Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, 75th U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, 22nd U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning and many more, the letter made clear that the amendment would strengthen military readiness.
The letter states, “Many of us have served in the military or in national security roles despite historical barriers for people who share our background, appearance, convictions and stories. Many of us also work for organizations that advocate for members of underrepresented groups who have made sacrifices for our nation. These experiences inform our belief that a military open to all who meet standards, without prejudicial barriers, makes our nation stronger and safer. We also know firsthand the power of Congress’ voice in signaling acceptance and support for those who serve despite facing discrimination.”
— from press reports