The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Thursday on a resolution by Congressperson Joseph Kennedy III denouncing Trump’s ban on transgender service members. Kennedy:
It is mystifying to me that a President believes that defining people out of existence, or erasing their identity, would somehow make America stronger.
The measure will not reverse the policy, which is set to go into effect April 12. Kennedy says the resolution sends a strong message to the White House, the Pentagon and those serving in the military. Kennedy:
I’m hoping to show that there is a bipartisan rejection of a policy that was put forth by tweet.
The vote is expected to pass in the Democratic-led House. Kennedy:
If our country stands for one thing, it’s that here everybody counts, and we see you for who you are and we are going to protect you.
Kennedy is chairman of the Congressional Trans Equality Task Force, and a leader for Transgender Rights in Washington. Kennedy states that the task force’s mission is:
… to deliver for all Americans on the promise etched on the edifice of the Supreme Court building across the street: Equal Justice Under Law. Obviously, that’s not the case. The Task Force is trying to make the case that this is not just an issue for transgender Americans. This is about the very core of the foundation of a society that still falls short of what we actually set out to end.
The Trans Equality Task Force was first established in 2015, and three years later Vice President Joe Biden called the fight for transgender liberty “the civil rights issue of our time”. Barack Obama‘s administration unarguably advanced Transgender Rights more than any other, achieving, among many other things, health coverage for trans Americans under the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), soon to be demolished by the GOP.
In 2017, Trump announced the policy in tweets aimed at reversing the 2016 Obama administration policy that allowed transgender members already serving to do so openly. The following year, transgender recruits were still allowed to enlist.
Trump’s tweets started a two-year legal battle, which ended this week when a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the government’s favor removed the last procedural hurdle to the ban going into effect. The policy will ban most transgender troops and recruits from serving and prevent current service members from transitioning.
Members of the military currently who do not serve according to the gender of their birth would likely be discharged, according to a Defense Department memo outlining the new policy.
Furthermore, the lives of transgender people in America will be even more in dangerous. In October 2018, the New York Times published an article about of a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services outlining the Trump administration’s plan to redefine gender based on sex assigned at birth and genetic testing, metrics that would erase any formal recognition of transgender identity from all federal institutions.
Following the publication of that NY Times piece, Kennedy led an initiative to stop the administration’s plans. Kennedy said of the DHHS memo:
The administration is basically saying, “Your government does not stand for you, we want to pretend that you do not exist, and we’re going to make it essentially such that our documents indicate that you don’t’.
The NY Times piece did not publish the memo in full, which has still not been released by the government. Kennedy:
I would love to see it. If you’re not willing to share it, it’s probably because you don’t want people to know what you’re going to do. You’re either ashamed or scared. Or probably both.
Last week, on the floor of Congress, Kennedy asked DHHS Secretary Alex Azar about the memo. At first, Azar refused to comment on the existence of any “preliminary memo”, and then stated he would not share it with Kennedy because it is “internal”.
Kennedy is also the sponsored of the Do No Harm Act, which aims to prevent people from using religious freedom from discriminating against others.