Lambda Legal Urges the House to Pass the National Defense Authorization Act with the Nondiscrimination Provision for Transgender Servicemembers

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July 12, 2019

(Washington, D.C., July 12, 2019) — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill included (Amendment 339) protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in the armed services.

Lambda Legal released the following statement on behalf of Senior Staff Attorney Sasha Buchert:

“Lambda Legal urges the House to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act. It sends a clear message that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation will not be tolerated in our government, especially in the military, our country’s largest employer. And we call upon the Senate to advance the NDAA with these protections in place.

“The nondiscrimination provision will enshrine the bedrock principle that service members and those seeking to enlist in the armed services should be judged on their ability to meet the high standards that are expected of everyone wishing to serve in the military—not by an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion or sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation).

This prohibition is especially salient for transgender service members, many of whom have been serving openly for over three years who have met, and often exceeded every standard the military demands of anyone seeking to serve in the armed forces but who continue to experience discrimination as a result of the ban on open service. While we are working in the courts, we are pleased that Congress is taking swift action to end the damage the Trump-Pence administration continues to cause transgender service members and their families serving all over the world to keep us safe.

“We thank Rep. Jackie Speier for her leadership on the nondiscrimination provision and we urge Congress to stand with transgender troops and do what’s right to protect our troops—who are protecting us—from discrimination and hatred. Every day our clients get up to serve their country in the same way they did the day before, but this harmful ban tries to strip the dignity they carry when they wear the uniform. It is a matter of basic fairness and equality that service members be judged not on who they are or who they love, but on their ability to meet the military’s high standards.”

Two years ago on August 2017, Lambda Legal and other groups sued the Trump Administration in Karnoski v Trump challenging that unjustified policy prompting the courts to bar the administration to enforce the ban by December of that year. We have been in the courts fighting this discriminatory ban but given the Supreme Court’s green light this year to allow the ban to go into effect while litigation proceeds, Congress must add explicit protections for antidiscrimination and revoke Trump’s transphobic military ban.”

Yesterday, Lambda Legal sent a letter urging members of Congress to support this amendment.