Anti-trans military healthcare bill may come back for vote

The transgender military healthcare bill which the U.S. House of Representatives voted down last week may not be completely dead.

Politico reports that Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri, is trying to revive her amendment what would have banned the Pentagon from paying for transition-related healthcare for transgender service members.

The House narrowly defeated the item last week on a 214-209 vote. Some 24 Republicans joined all 190 Democrats present in voting against the measure, which was an amendment to a $696 billion (€596 billion, £536 billion) military spending bill.

Now Hartzler is attempting to get the measure included in a different spending bill that will soon come up for a vote.

‘Steps must be taken to address this misuse of our precious defense dollars,’ Hartzler said in a statement to Politico. ‘This policy hurts our military’s readiness and will take over a billion dollars from the Department of Defense’s budget. This is still an important issue that needs to be addressed.’

Hartzler’s original item prohibited the Pentagon from spending money for any healthcare related to transitioning, including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, for both service members and their dependents.

Transition-related mental health services were excluded from Hartzler’s ban.

Military readiness

Before the House vote last week, Hartzler told her colleagues that the ban was about ‘military readiness,’ saying a soldier who undergoes reassignment surgery requires recovery time and  is not capable of being deployed for combat during that period.

Other Congressmembers expressed fear that transgender people would join the military with the express idea of having the Pentagon pay for the transition surgery.

Transgender people have been allowed to serve openly in the military since October 2016. However, transgender people are not currently allowed to join the military.

In essence the current policy is, if you’re already in the military, it’s safe to come out as transgender. But if you’re trying to join the military, you must stay closeted.

The Pentagon was due to start accepting new, openly transgender soldiers on 1 July 2017 per changes initiated under the Obama administration. However, in June, the military announced they are postponing the policy another six months.

Defense Secretary James Mattis is said to be reviewing all the military’s policy’s regarding transgender soldiers.

Earlier, Rep. Hartzler attempted to prevent any transgender people from serving in the military. She introduced a different amendment banning all transgender people from serving, but withdrew it before it came to a vote in the committee.

An estimated 6,630 transgender people are actively serving in the military according to a RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon.

However, the Williams Institute, an LGBTI think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles law school, estimates the real number to be around 15,000.

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