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House to consider banning transgender surgery for troops

14 July 2017

Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon's personnel system.

The close vote nonetheless underscored the zeal with which a number of Republicans are seizing opportunities to reverse what they cast as President Barack Obama's social engineering of the armed forces.

That brought a response from Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a former Marine Corps officer. The congressman added that if people join the military and then transition to another gender while enlisted, "it will cost the government money, and taxpayers in the country are not going to foot the bill for it". "Let's make America great again".

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Top Democrats and LGBT leaders say claims of financial frugality are a ruse created to mask the right's larger cultural effort to impede transgender people from serving and marginalize LGBT people in society.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Hartzler meant to "politically denigrate" transgender troops. "It has one objective and one goal only: to politically denigrate some of our fellow citizens".

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Brookline, blasted House Republican leaders Thursday for considering an amendment to an annual defense spending bill that he said would deny medically necessary health care to transgender service members.

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In June a year ago, the Obama administration announced that it would allow transgender soldiers to serve openly for the first time in history, and in September the Pentagon said it would cover gender-related surgeries.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declined to fully endorse Hartzler's amendment while telling reporters it's important for Congress and the Defense Department to work closely together on military transgender policies. "Transgender Americans, in uniform or not, deserve better than this hateful amendment from those elected to represent them". Jared Polis of Colorado and Patrick McGovern of MA dissenting.

Voting on both measures could happen as early as later this week when the Defense Authorization Act reaches the House floor.

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The ACLU sent a letter to Congress calling the amendment a "discriminatory, unconstitutional attack". "The proposal would bar access to medically necessary health care for military families and transgender service members who put their lives on the line for this country".

But at the time, she said that she reserved the right to submit a floor amendment dealing with the transgender policy. That plan may now be pushed back until 2018. That restriction would apply not only to service members who need transition-related care, such as hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, but also the dependents of all service members, such as a transgender spouse or child.

The Wisconsin Republican said he wants to Defense Secretary James Mattis on the issue even though Ryan backs an amendment that would effectively override the Pentagon's decision on service by transgender troops. The costs of providing them with gender transition-related medical care are relatively low: RAND estimates 30 to 140 people would seek new hormone treatments per year, and 25 to 130 would seek gender transition-related surgeries.

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The full House will vote Thursday on whether to keep the amendment in the bill, as lawmakers plow through the 122 proposed amendments.

House to consider banning transgender surgery for troops