The amendment makes eligible for military service any individual who can meet standards, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion or sex — including gender identity or sexual orientation
Moments ago, by a bipartisan vote of 242-187, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-discrimination amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 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.”
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 signalling acceptance and support for those who serve despite facing discrimination.”
The amendment would simply put into statute the Department of Defense’s own inclusive language used in its military equal opportunity program. The 2016 DoD Directive 1020.02E, Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity in the DoD, states equal opportunity is “critical to mission accomplishment, unit cohesiveness, and military readiness.” The directive states that all service members should be “afforded equal opportunity in an environment free from harassment, including sexual harassment, and unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity), or sexual orientation.”
In the case of Karnoski v. Trump, MMAA and Lambda Legal are challenging the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s ban on military service by transgender individuals. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of six currently serving members of the armed services, three recruits who seek to enlist, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Gender Justice League.