Senate blocks vote on Gillibrand amendment to protect trans troops

By : Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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ABOVE: The amendment Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) filed against Trump’s transgender military ban won’t get a vote. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

Despite bipartisan support, an amendment proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would have undermined President Trump’s ban on transgender military service won’t get a vote in the U.S. Senate, the Washington Blade has learned.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said the Senate didn’t have unanimous consent and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was unwilling to file cloture to force a vote. Gillibrand proposed the amendment, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), as part of the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill.

The amendment, which sought to protect transgender troops in the aftermath of Trump’s directive barring them from the U.S. armed forces, had three parts.

It would have expressed the sense of Congress that qualified individuals should be able to serve in the armed forces; prohibited the military from discharging service members solely for being transgender; and codified the review Mattis established in June to determine whether openly transgender people can enlist in the armed forces. The amendment called for a report to Congress on that study by Feb. 21.

The amendment was carefully crafted to obtain support from Republicans and wouldn’t have eliminated every aspect of Trump’s transgender military ban, such as his ban on U.S. military payment for gender reassignment survey. Nonetheless, the Trump administration opposed the amendment, insisting the process Mattis set up at the Pentagon is sufficient to address the issue.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, took to Twitter to condemn the Senate for blocking a vote on the amendment, placing the blame squarely on Republican leadership.

Even though the amendment was thwarted, litigation continues seeking to undo Trump’s transgender military ban. At least four federal lawsuits were filed against the policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit in federal court in Maryland, and Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, which filed a lawsuit in Washington State, called Thursday for injunction from those courts blocking enforcement of the ban as litigation moves forward. Another request from an injunction in the lawsuit filed in federal court in D.C. by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders remains outstanding.

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