Democratic lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Defense from discriminating against or barring transgender individuals from serving in the military.
Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) introduced the bill on Monday with the support of 22 Democratic co-sponsors. Though a full-text version of the legislation is not yet available, Jacobs said its purpose is to “prevent future discriminatory policies” against transgender military service members.
Jacobs introduced the bill just over a month after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced legislation seeking to codify specific eligibility requirements for transgender individuals to serve in the military. The Republican bill, titled the “Ensuring Military Readiness Act,” would require transgender individuals to have been “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession” into the military, and would allow transgender service members who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria while in the military to remain in service as long as they do not pursue gender reassignment therapy or hormone therapy.
Jacobs said her bill, titled the “Ensuring Military Readiness Not Discrimination Act,” would “prevent future discriminatory policies like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ President Trump’s transgender military service ban, and Senator Rubio and Congressman Banks’ bill that would reinstate President Trump’s transgender military service ban.”
“Anyone willing and able to serve our country should be able to serve authentically,” said Jacobs, who serves as vice-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and co-chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force.
Jacobs also presented her bill as a way to address the military’s recent recruiting challenges. All U.S. military branches struggled with recruitment last year, and the U.S. Army missed its recruiting goal by 25 percent, or about 15,000 fewer recruits than it had planned for the 2022 fiscal year.
“Discrimination of all kinds, especially against the transgender and gender non-conforming communities, prevents our military from recruiting and retaining the best and brightest and weakens military readiness,” Jacobs said Monday. “As our military faces recruitment and retention challenges, we need to ensure that our policies reflect our military’s values of equality, diversity, and inclusion.”
Jacobs’ bill also garnered the support of various LGBT advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, SPARTA, the Modern Military Association of America (MMAA), the National Center for Transgender Equality, Minority Vets, and American Veterans for Equal Rights.
“Enshrining into law that military service cannot be limited by any criteria relating to the race, color, national origin, religion, or sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, or sex characteristics, including intersex traits of an individual) is a critical step in ensuring the recruitment, readiness and retention of our armed forces,” said Cathy Marcello, director of MMAA’s MilPride program.
Republicans, Conservatives Raise Transgender Readiness Concerns
In a press statement introducing his “Ensuring Military Readiness Act,” Rubio criticized President Joe Biden’s handling of the military, saying the president “has turned our military into a woke social experiment. It is a stupid way to go about protecting our nation.”
Rubio argued that the military has strict standards for who can and cannot qualify to serve, including an exclusion for people with peanut allergies. Banks similarly noted that people who were treated for ADHD in the two years prior to their enlistment must receive a waiver to serve.
“Our military holds recruits to stringent medical standards for a reason and the Biden administration’s special carveout for those suffering from gender dysphoria was purely political,” Banks said. “Our bill ensures that DoD puts lethality and readiness before far-left ideology.”
Ryan Walker, the vice president of government relations for Heritage Action and a supporter of Rubio and Banks’ bill, said “data shows that service members with gender dysphoria are at a much higher risk of suicide, crippling anxiety, or other mental conditions than their peers.”
“The Biden administration’s decision to allow for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria to serve will harm readiness by reducing the number of troops that are available to deploy,” Walker added. “At a time when all branches of the military are already facing a recruitment and readiness crisis, this decision will also breed mistrust and uncertainty among units that need to know they can count on those standing next to them.”