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American Civil Liberties Union


Transgender Soldiers Are Equal to the Task. We Have Earned the Right to Serve Our Country.

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 13:15 -0500

It was liberating to serve my country as my authentic self. Now, we step back to uncertainty. This article is an expression of my personal opinion as a private citizen, and in no way reflects that of the United States Navy, the government, or affiliated agencies and organizations. My name is Brock Stone. I am a Petty Officer First Class in the United States Navy, and I have been serving for 11 years. I’ve set foot in nine different countries, deployed to Afghanistan, and worked alongside some of the most amazing and diverse people our country has to offer.  I also happen to be a transgender man. I decided to join the Navy in 2005, inspired by my father’s service and that of many other family members and friends. Right away, I had my work cut out for me, as I had to work hard for several months to fit the physical fitness standards the Navy required. I was finally able to join in 2006 at the age of 23. It was an intimidating step into my future, but I had decided well before the day I was sworn  in that I was going to serve for at least 20  years. On my in-processing day, I recall very vividly signing a piece of paper acknowledging the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy: a rule that stated the military agreed to not ask about my sexual orientation, but that I was not to be involved in any “homosexual behavior.” I considered myself bisexual at the time, so I rationalized to myself that I was still left with some dating options, and signed on the line. My gender identity, I’d already buried under a pile of denial in college. That denial didn’t last long, however. A few years into my service, and I was struggling with a lot of frustration and anger, and even after I stopped denying my gender identity I still had to stay closeted in public. Even when DADT was repealed, trans people were left behind. I turned to cosplay and geek culture to escape a little, but I often wished I didn’t have to wear my real self as a costume. The one bright spot was my wife, whom I met at a convention in 2015, and who immediately accepted me for who I was. Thanks to the DADT repeal, we were, at least, able to marry. Despite the wide acceptance I enjoyed in my personal life and among my friends, I still lived in fear. Telling the wrong person or posting the wrong thing on social media could mean the end of my career. I hated the idea of living a lie. Honor is a core value within the Navy, and hiding who I was didn’t feel honorable, even though it had no material impact on my ability to serve. By the spring of 2016, I was almost at my wit’s end. Although I excelled at work and received high marks in performance, being at work was becoming increasingly frustrating. I was virtually living a double life. Even though by then the power to discharge trans people had been removed from Navy unit commanders, I stayed closeted because it was still technically possible for me to be processed out. Then on June 30, 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that the military was halting its ban on allowing service men and women who are transgender to serve. I watched his press conference in my truck in a shopping mall parking lot, afraid to miss even a second of it. It was a pivotal moment for me. I was finally free, finally safe, finally able to fully excel without fearing for my career. Moving forward with my transition is incredibly liberating. I feel even more motivated at work, helping my Sailors, and serving my country. While I don’t pretend to speak for all my fellow trans servicemembers, I have heard similar sentiments from many of them. My unit, command, and fellow servicemembers have been incredibly supportive. So, of course, it was shocking and hurtful to hear of the transgender service ban. All the old fear and anxiety came flooding back, along with a sense of betrayal. I had, in good faith, made myself known. I had been granted license to be myself. And then, just a little more than a year later, that was all taken back. Now, I wonder whether I’ll be able to continue my career. I must plan for a futu[...]

Stop Performing Nonconsensual, Medically Unnecessary Surgeries on Young Intersex Children

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 14:00 -0400

Surgeries on intersex children can lead to a lifetime of trauma for those receiving them. Each year, doctors around the United States perform medically unnecessary, irreversible surgeries on children and infants with intersex traits to “normalize” their bodies. The procedures are done before it is possible for the individual child to consent or even communicate their gender to medical providers making legal and medical sex assignments for them. Justified by parents, doctors, and others, at least in part, by a desire to forcibly avoid the future stigma of a perceived nonconforming body, these surgeries can lead to a lifetime of trauma for the intersex infants on whom they are performed. On this Intersex Awareness Day, I urge my fellow trans advocates to call on medical associations and hospitals to join the international human rights community in banning nonconsensual, medically unnecessary surgeries on children with intersex traits. It is plainly unethical, cruel, and unnecessary to perform surgeries on the genitals of children and infants because we are afraid that their bodies do not seem normal and out of an impulse to “assign” a binary sex to a child before that child can articulate their gender. We must do better than that. We must celebrate the beauty of our differences rather than fear such difference so deeply that we cut into the genitals of our kids to erase it. According to InterACT, a leading advocacy organization for intersex youth: “The term intersex is an umbrella term that refers to people who have one or more of a range of variations in sex characteristics that fall outside of traditional conceptions of male or female bodies. For example, intersex people may have variations in their chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs like testes or ovaries.” Approximately one out of 2,000 children born are “faced with unnecessary medical intervention at an early age.” Like transgender individuals, intersex people face discrimination and violence because they do not conform to societal gender norms. And they have increasingly become targets for discrimination by lawmakers seeking to expel gender nonconforming individuals from single-sex spaces like restrooms. Though the discrimination that intersex individuals and transgender individuals face stems from the same social, medical, and political forces that want to enforce binary notions of biologically based sexual difference, our communities are often pitted against each other. This is because intersex individuals have to fight to be free from nonconsensual, medically unnecessary surgery, while trans individuals are forced to fight to gain access to medically necessary health care, including some of the same surgical procedures that are performed nonconsensually on intersex infants. But our communities — at times overlapping — are natural allies in the fight against medical and state control over the autonomy and health needs of our bodies. In the case of both intersex and transgender patients, all we’re asking for is the right to decide for ourselves who we are. This means listening to young people and giving them a chance to embrace their identities and bodies and articulate their gender for themselves. For intersex youth, this can only happen if doctors refrain from performing surgeries on youth before they are capable of understanding and consenting to those surgeries. For all youth, this also means appreciating that however our sexed body parts align — or however they may differ from our expectations of how male or female bodies should look — our understanding of who we are is what should control both how we are understood in society and the medical care that we receive. Our bodies may not always meet societal expectations of what is normal, but they are ours and they are beautiful. For parents and doctors to decide in infancy to “normalize” a body to fit societal expectations of binary-sexed bodies is to reinforce our fears of difference. And by doing so, they erase trans and intersex people f[...]

Think Religiously Motivated Discrimination Can’t Affect You? Guess Again.

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:00 -0400

No one should be fired from their job simply because they are transgender.

Aimee Stephens knows first-hand how religiously-motivated discrimination can wreck your life. Aimee worked as a funeral director for a Michigan funeral home for six years. Aimee is a woman who is transgender, but for six years she went to work presenting as a man, while she struggled to be able to live her life as a woman. When she could hide no longer, she came out to her boss. Two weeks later, he fired her, saying “this is not going to work out.”

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on Aimee’s behalf, seeking a remedy for the funeral home’s blatant sex discrimination. The funeral home didn’t deny that it fired Aimee because she was going to present as a woman. Instead it said that federal law allows it to fire her because of the funeral home owner’s religious belief that it’s a sin to transition from one gender to another.

A federal judge in Detroit agreed with the funeral home and dismissed the EEOC’s suit. The judge ruled that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permitted the funeral home to use to justify discrimination against transgender employees. That court’s view, if allowed to stand, would carve out an exception to federal civil rights laws for any employer with religious beliefs that support discrimination. And it could authorize not just anti-transgender discrimination, but discrimination based on race, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation – in short, all civil rights protections that are basic guarantees of equality in America.

The ACLU, representing Aimee, is before the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today challenging the trial court ruling. While the freedom of religion is a core American value that’s protected by the Constitution, religious freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate.

Aimee Stephens’s case is just one example of how those opposed to LGBT rights are seeking to use religion as an excuse to discriminate. Later this fall, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in another religious exemptions case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In that case, a bakery outside Denver refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig citing the bakery’s religious objections to gay people getting married. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether

the bakery has a constitutional right to discriminate based on its religious beliefs and its artistic freedom.

Anti-LGBT advocates are also trying to use religion to deny people health care. In a Texas case, health care providers have challenged federal rules that bar discrimination in access to health care. They argue that such rules violate their religious freedom in requiring them to provide health care to transgender people. And in California, a Catholic hospital refused to perform a hysterectomy on a transgender man, arguing that its religious beliefs justify turning the patient away.

In the past, courts have largely rejected attempts to use religion to discriminate. But our opponents haven’t given up. We need to fight back, for Aimee Stephens and for LGBT people all across the country.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case Is One Piece of a Much Larger Attack on LGBTQ Lives

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:00 -0400

It’s not about the cake. And it’s not about artistic expression. It’s about survival. This term the Supreme Court will hear a case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Charlie Craig & David Mullins, involving a Colorado bakery that refused to serve a same-sex couple who wanted to purchase a cake for their wedding reception. Colorado law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodations — places like bakeries, movie theatres, restaurants, hospitals, and other establishments open to the public — based on sexual orientation, among other protected classes. The Colorado courts, interpreting this straightforward law, held that the bakery’s refusal to serve the couple constituted discrimination based on sexual orientation and that there is no constitutional right to discriminate that supersedes this protection. Now before the United States Supreme Court and supported by anti-LGBTQ groups, and the United States Department of Justice, the bakery argues that it has a First Amendment right to discriminate based on the owner’s religious beliefs. The owner also claims that because his business — making cakes — involves some creativity, he should be allowed to determine who can receive his services. His argument can be deceptively appealing. Cakes can often have artistic or creative designs. So can sandwiches, legal briefs, bicycles, cars, flowers, medical care. Indeed, the work that we do often has great personal meaning to us and reflects our skill and passion. But it is wrong to think that (1) any business that involves a creative component should be exempt from nondiscrimination laws, or (2) that a business is somehow endorsing each and every customer it serves. As civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto wrote in a recent piece for SCOTUSBlog: Earning a living from the sweat of one’s brow coexists with human creativity, with the passion for cutting hair or cooking food, with designing and sewing clothing – with making something both functional and beautiful. Uplifting the dignity and creativity in all work, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of the “street sweeper” who could “sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.” To argue, as do Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Department of Justice in this case, that the exemption that would be created by a ruling for the business is narrow, is to ignore that reality. If we start to exempt from nondiscrimination laws businesses that reflect creativity and passion, such a move would undermine all nondiscrimination protections. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization defending the business at the Supreme Court, is taking great pains to frame this case as one about art and expression. It is using this tactic to gain support and obscure the fact that this case is part of a broader strategy to banish LGBTQ people from public life. This is not about cake. This is about demolishing the legal protections that exist against discrimination in places of public accommodation. Groups like ADF have already proposed and passed laws seeking to exempt from nondiscrimination protections any action that infringes upon an individual or businesses deeply held religious or moral belief that: “(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” I shudder at this final point since it means a moral or religious belief that trans people do not exist. And that is precisely what ADF and others have argued time and time again in litigation. In the past two years, they and others have advanced the arguments that it is “outlandish” for the federal government to protect transgender students from discrimination, that having a gender that does[...]

Time Marches Forward and So Do We

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:30 -0400

Watch a short history of trans discrimination, resistance, and survival, and join the fight. Every day, I am confronted with antagonistic queries about why the ACLU would focus on trans rights work. “How many trans people are there really?” we are asked. Or, “Isn’t this just a new niche issue that doesn’t affect a lot of people?” The assumption is that trans existence is new, that trans people are so marginal as to be unworthy of advocacy, that discrimination against such a new and insignificant community should not consume our attention or resources. None of this is accurate. Trans people have always existed. And while we have and continue to face rampant and deadly discrimination, so too have we built beautiful communities and movements of resistance and love. A video released today by the ACLU in collaboration with Zackary Drucker, the Transparent producer and artist; Laverne Cox, the Emmy-nominated actress; and the creative team of Molly Crabapple, Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt tells this story of trans history and resistance, which is as relevant and as urgent now as ever. Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from Just two weeks ago, President Trump announced on Twitter that he wanted to reverse current policy and ban transgender individuals from military service. Meanwhile, continued legislative efforts in states like Texas seek to ban transgender individuals from public restrooms. The consequences of this discrimination from our government are deadly. In one comprehensive survey of more than 27,000 transgender individuals, almost one third of respondents reported living in poverty as compared with only 14 percent of the U.S. population. Over half of respondents reported being denied health care related to their gender transition. A quarter indicated that they did not seek medical attention at all due to fear of discrimination. And more than three-quarters reported experiencing harassment in school because they were trans, ultimately leading 17 percent of respondents to drop out of high school altogether. All of this contributes to a cycle of discrimination and violence that leads to homelessness, incarceration, and ultimately, for many — particularly trans women of color — premature death. Indeed, at least 15 trans people have been murdered in the country this year, almost all of them women of color. The numbers are likely higher, but violence against trans individuals so often goes unreported, or the victims are inaccurately classified by their assigned sex at birth. So while there is an increase in visibility and attention to trans people, the discrimination remains staggering. And without accurate information about trans people, our lives, and our rich histories, the impulse to push us out of public life will continue. But we continue to tell our vivid, vibrant, and critical story of trans resistance.Time marches forward, and so do we.[...]

Donald Trump Attacks Transgender People to Help Build Border Wall

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 13:30 -0400

In a nakedly political move, Trump endangers transgender soldiers to pay for wall with Mexico. Yesterday, following Trump’s wishes, House Republicans approved $1.6 billion in border wall funding. It’s off to the Senate now, where Democrats have said they will block it.The ACLU opposes construction of the wall because it furthers Trump’s draconian and discriminatory anti-immigrant agenda and puts the rights of people who live near the border in jeopardy. But a revelation made this move even more callous. Now we know that Trump's short-lived victory was the work of rank discrimination against patriotic transgender service members. This week, President Trump announced — in all but three tweets — that transgender people will be banned from military service. Despite Trump’s false claim that his pronouncement was the result of consultation with “my Generals” and concerns over spending, it has become obvious that sound policy had nothing to do with his reckless decision. A new report from Politico reveals that Trump decided to ban transgender service members as a way to secure funding for his proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Several House members planned to vote against the “minibus” spending bill, which determines the Pentagon’s spending and also includes $1.6 billion for Trump’s border wall, if it did not include an amendment to prohibit funding for transgender health care in the military. In an effort to appease his right flank, Trump — obsessed with the construction of a border wall — decided to not just target transgender health care but rather to issue a broad ban against all transgender people from serving in our Armed Forces. Trump did not consult with the Joint Chiefs of Staff before making the announcement, according to CNN, and one of “the heads of the military branches was informed by a staffer of the President's tweets on transgender policy and had no idea it was coming.” Trump did, however, consult his “faith advisers.” Secretary of Defense Mattis, who just three weeks ago proposed giving the Pentagon six more months to study the impact of transgender troops on military readiness, was on vacation at the time Trump made his Twitter pronouncements. Some military leaders, clueless that Trump was announcing a new policy on transgender service, reportedly worried that he was on the verge of tweeting a call for military strikes on North Korea. In fact, as of today, there is still no new official policy on transgender service in the military. Even White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders couldn’t offer any details on the status of the thousands of transgender service members. Trump didn’t only mislead the public when he said that the ban was the result of close consultation with military leaders, but he also pushed the false claim that spending on health services for transgender troops was too burdensome. While Trump cited the “tremendous medical costs” of transgender health care coverage in his tweet-storm, experts found that such expenses are minimal, and they are far less onerous than what the government spends on the president’s many trips to Mar-a-Lago or what the military spends on Viagra. Trump’s own staff also undermined the case that the discriminatory ban was intended to improve military readiness. One official bragged that the transgender ban was meant to help their party win key races in the midterm elections. While the military’s trans-inclusive policy “was crafted through a comprehensive and inclusive process” that involved military leaders, outside experts, medical professionals, and transgender service members, Trump’s discriminatory ban was dictated by tweet, rife with falsehoods, and done without significant consultation with members of the military. It appears that Trump will do whatever it takes to win financing for his ill-conceived and unwanted border wall, even if it means under[...]

Jeff Sessions Thinks It Should Be Legal to Fire You for Being LGBT

Thu, 27 Jul 2017 11:15 -0400

If you thought Attorney General Sessions couldn’t be anymore anti-LGBT, last night he doubled down.

In the latest and most significant anti-LGBT action yet from the Trump administration, the Justice Department last night filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit arguing that federal civil rights laws do not protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The case in question concerns a former skydiving instructor who filed a lawsuit against his employer in 2010, alleging that the company terminated him because of his sexual orientation.

This appalling brief from the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department comes as the Second Circuit is preparing to hear arguments about whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, also prohibits discrimination against lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people — a position supported by, among many others, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which is based in Chicago, considered the same question. They ultimately ruled that discrimination against a person based on their sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited under Title VII. In writing for the court, Chief Judge Diane P. Wood noted that, “It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation.’”[RK1]

And yet these kinds of legal gymnastics are now exactly what the Justice Department is attempting to do.

“It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation.’”

As if the Trump administration’s legal arguments in this case weren’t galling enough on their own, the fact that they are even weighing in at all in this case is noteworthy for how outrageous it is. The United States is not a party to the case, thus the administration cannot argue that its hand was forced. No, this is nothing more than a shameful effort on the part of a very anti-LGBT attorney general to advance discriminatory legal arguments. The question of whether Title VII prohibits gender identity-based discrimination — a position well-supported in case law — isn’t even before the court in this case. Rather, this case addresses the question of whether the federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on sex also bars discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.

It is disgraceful that the Trump administration is working affirmatively to expose LGBT people to discrimination. Fortunately, the question of whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBT people is ultimately a question for the courts to resolve, not Attorney General Sessions.

So while the Justice Department abdicates their responsibility to fight for and uphold our civil rights, we will continue to push forward. 

The ACLU is confident that the law is in our side and that the courts will come to the right decision, just as the Seventh Circuit already has. And we’re prepared to continue this fight to make clear that discrimination against LGBT people is just another form of sex discrimination that is prohibited under federal civil rights laws.

With Three Tweets President Trump Cruelly Threatens Trans Service Members With Rank Discrimination

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 12:00 -0400

Contrary to Trump’s assertions, the military has said that transgender troops promote readiness at no cost or disruption.

In a series of tweets this morning, President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced a cruel and dangerous reversal in policy on transgender individuals serving in the military. Claiming that “[o]ur military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory,” Trump falsely suggested that transgender individuals were too costly and disruptive to continue serving.

The announcement came as a surprise to everyone, including, it seems, the Pentagon.

Stop Trump’s Ban on Transgender Military Service

In fact, just a year ago, the Department of Defense ended the ban on open transgender service, explaining:

“This policy was crafted through a comprehensive and inclusive process that included the leadership of the Armed Services, medical and personnel experts across the Department, transgender Service members, outside medical experts, advocacy groups, and the RAND Corporation.”

Apparently that extensive work over many years and across many areas of expertise was reversed in a matter of minutes — over Twitter.

Indeed, contrary to Trump’s suggestion on Twitter, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in Congress just last week that inclusion of transgender individuals in the military promoted readiness and caused no disruption or cost. He explained that “[t]he military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness” and urged Congress “to respect the military’s judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms.”

Congress ultimately rejected a proposal to ban health coverage for transgender servicemembers and dependents. As Mullen noted, “Thousands of transgender Americans are currently serving in uniform and there is no reason to single out these brave men and women and deny them the medical care that they require.”

This is not about cost. This is not about readiness or a strong military. Today’s announcement is about targeting, demonizing, and endangering a group of people who are risking their lives every day for our country.

To the thousands of trans people currently serving in the military and to the thousands more who love and support them, we will not stop fighting. If the military reverses its existing policies protecting trans service members in response to the president’s tweets, the ACLU is ready to act.

Contact us if you want to explore your options.

Lawmakers in Texas Are Returning to the Capitol for More Anti-Trans Discrimination

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 15:00 -0400

The lives of transgender people are at stake as Texas convenes their special legislative session. In Texas, transgender young people and their families have become accustomed to sustained attacks on their basic humanity. Throughout the last legislative session, which concluded in May with most of the anti-trans bills failing to pass, trans Texans and their loved ones traveled to the capitol in Austin from across the state to plea for decency, justice, and the basic opportunity to participate in public life. When SB6, the sweeping anti-trans bill modeled after North Carolina’s infamous HB2, was heard before a Senate committee in March, hundreds of bill opponents flocked to the capitol to speak out against the measure, which did nothing more than demonize transgender Texans. The hearing lasted through the night and despite the heartfelt testimony from trans people and their families, the measure passed out of the committee 8-1 and went on to clear the Senate floor. The bill then died in the House despite the relentless efforts of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to get an anti-trans bill heard on the House floor. Now Texas lawmakers will return to Austin on Tuesday, July 18, to begin a 30-day special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott to, among other things, attempt to pass the anti-transgender legislation that failed to pass during the regular session. Proponents of these anti-trans measures, like SB6 champion Sen. Lois Kolkhorst claim that they are designed to “find the balance of privacy, decency, respect, and dignity, to protect women, children, and all people.” But they do nothing to serve privacy and safety. They do not protect anyone’s dignity. Rather they compromise the dignity of transgender people, gender non-conforming people, and the people who care for and love us. As hundreds of domestic violence and sexual assault organizations explained in a public statement opposing these anti-trans measures last year, “discriminating against transgender people does nothing to decrease the risk of sexual assault.” The statement went on to “oppose any law that would jeopardize the safety of transgender people by forcing them into restrooms that do not align with the gender they live every day.” The organizations also made it clear that as advocates committed to violence prevention, they could not “stand by while the needs of survivors, both those who are transgender and those who are not, are obscured in order to push a political agenda that does nothing to serve and protect victims and potential victims.” And while lawmakers continue to push this political agenda, transgender youth continue to be targeted, transgender women of color continue to be killed, and our communities continue to be decimated by the consequences of legitimizing a debate over our humanity. In a viral video from Texas, Ken Ballard spoke about his support for his son, who is transgender. “Was I going to be his bully?” he asks. “Was I going to try to put him back in a box that fit the rules of my world at the time?” After his son attempted suicide, Ballard understood that he had a choice between loving and supporting a joyful and happy son or grieving a dead daughter. He chose to love his son. He chose to celebrate his beautiful son. After all, he reflected, “I didn’t have this kid to fulfill my dreams. I had this kid to help him realize his.” And the lives and dreams of our children are at stake. Transgender young people experience epidemically high rates of suicidality, and over 40 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide at some point in our lives. This is life or death. In a recent New Yorker article, Texas’s Republican House Speaker Joe Straus said of these sustained attacks on transgender people: “I’m disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don’t want the suicide of a[...]

Congress Should Reject This Unconstitutional Amendment Denying Care to Transgender Service Members and Their Families

Thu, 13 Jul 2017 11:45 -0400

Our troops deserve support not discrimination from members of Congress.

Update: Victory! The Hartzler Amendment was defeated: 214 No, 209 Yes.

The House of Representatives is poised to vote today on an amendment to prohibit transgender military service members and military dependents from receiving appropriate medical care.

The amendment — introduced by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the annual defense policy bill — bars the Department of Defense from providing funds towards medical treatment “related to gender transition,” such as hormone therapy.

Hartzler previously offered an amendment — since withdrawn — that would stop the military from enlisting transgender members.

This amendment targets health care services that the nation’s leading medical institutions, including the American Medical Association, agree are medically appropriate and necessary for transgender individuals.

The ACLU is sending a letter to the House today to vote against this discriminatory and unconstitutional amendment. The letter highlights the fact that denying access to care runs counter to scientific evidence and contemporary medical standards. It puts the wellbeing of certain service members at risk, undermining the ability of doctors in the military to adequately care for their patients.

Despite the suggestion that this is just an attempt to reduce spending, the Hartzler amendment is discriminatory, plain and simple. Hartzler made her hostility to transgender people clear when she compared transgender service members to members of ISIS, describing them as a “domestic threat.” She also wrongly — and absurdly — claimed that transition-related care would cost over $1 billion.

Last year, the military officially ended its ban on transgender service, although under the Trump administration it has delayed its acceptance of openly transgender applicants.

According to the Williams Institute, there are over 15,000 transgender individuals serving in active duty or in the Guards or Reserves, and “an estimated 134,000 transgender individuals are veterans or are retired from Guard or Reserve service.”

Transgender troops deserve our respect and support. Congress should reject this cruel and unwarranted attempt to deny necessary care to transgender Americans and harm those serving our country.