June 18, 2019 at 10:38 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
House votes to defund trans military ban in rebuke to Trump

Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), on left, and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), second from right, join transgender service members in the Capitol Rotunda before the State of the Union Address on Feb. 5, 2019. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. House delivered on Tuesday evening a stinging rebuke to President Trump’s transgender military ban, adopting an amendment that would bar the use of U.S. funds to pay for the policy.

The vote on the amendment, introduced by Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), was 243-183 and largely along party lines. The measure was adopted as part of $983 billion minibus legislation for fiscal year 2020 seeking to fund the Defense Department, as well as labor, health and human services, education, state-foreign operations and energy and water development.

The amendment passed with bipartisan support. Nine Republicans — Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Tom Emmer (Minn.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Trey Hollingsworth (Ind.), Will Hurd (Texas), John Katko (N.Y.) and Tom Reed (N.Y.) — voted “yes” on the measure.

However, one Democrat voted against it: Rep. Colin Peterson (Minn).

Before April, transgender people could enlist and serve openly in the military thanks to a policy change during the Obama administration. But under the new Trump administration policy, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria disqualifies potential enlistees, and a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — with the exception of transgender people already serving in the armed forces — is cause for discharge.

It’s not the first time the House has voted to rebuked the transgender military ban. In March, the chamber approved a non-binding resolution introduced by Kennedy against the Trump administration policy.

After the House approves the underlying minibus legislation, it will head to the Senate, which has yet to take up any appropriations bills for fiscal year 2020.

Any version of the spending bill with a provision against the transgender military ban would likely not fare well in the Republican-controlled chamber. (But passage isn’t impossible. Ending a filibuster on budgetary legislation requires a majority vote in the Senate, unlike the 60 votes needed to proceed with policy legislation.)

The White House has already issued a veto threat over the minibus legislation, but for reasons wholly unrelated to the transgender military ban. In a White House Office of Management & Budget Statement of Administration Policy opposes the legislation, citing concerns about raising discretionary spending caps by more than $350 billion in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and putting the U.S. government on track to add nearly $2 trillion in deficits over 10 years.

The vote on the Brown-Speier amendment will likely not be the last word from the House on the transgender military ban. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said he expects a floor vote against the policy as the part of the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization bill, which is legislation separate from the appropriations bill.

Jennifer Levi, director of the transgender rights project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, commanded the House in a statement for approving the amendment against the transgender ban.

“A policy that turns away qualified, dedicated Americans who want to serve their country is baseless, discriminatory, and ultimately weakens our military,” Levi said.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, referenced in a statement on the amendment polls showing a supermajority of the American public are against the policy.

“Military leaders don’t want this ban and the American people don’t want this ban — including a growing percentage of the president’s own party,” Minter said. “We won’t stop fighting in the courts to end the ban for good and we applaud members of Congress for continuing to fight for our transgender service members as well.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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