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Bipartisan Defense Amendment Aims to Protect Transgender Service Members

WASHINGTON -- Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to protect transgender service members from being kicked out of the military.

On July 26, Trump tweeted: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

Late last month, the White House released a memo for the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security regarding the military branches and the Coast Guard. "In my judgment, the previous administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the departments' longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year's policy change would not have those negative effects," Trump wrote.

The secretaries were directed to "maintain the currently effective policy regarding accession of transgender individuals into military service beyond January 1, 2018, until such time as the Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, provides a recommendation to the contrary that I find convincing."

Defense Secretary James Mattis said he "will develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law."

Once an appointed panel of experts at the DoD comes back with its recommendations, Mattis continued, "and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning of his policy direction."

That means transgender service members are protected for the time being; some have already filed lawsuits against the president's directive.

The amendment from Collins and Gillibrand, who is ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, says that qualified individuals who can meet military standards should be eligible to serve and prohibits the Defense Department from kicking out or denying the re-enlistment of a service member based solely on gender identity.

It also requires Mattis to complete his promised review by the end of this year and report back to Congress with the findings.

Both senators were instrumental in fighting to repeal the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on LGBT service members serving openly.

“Our armed forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” Collins said in a statement Monday. “If individuals are willing to put on the uniform of our country, be deployed in war zones, and risk their lives for our freedoms, then we should be expressing our gratitude to them, not trying to exclude them from military service.”