House Democrats, joined by five Republicans, on Thursday approved a non-binding resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
Reversing a policy adopted by President Barack Obama’s administration that allowed transgender people to openly serve in the military, the Trump administration’s edict — haphazardly announced on Twitter in July 2017 after minimal consultation from military officials — is set to go into effect on April 12. A divided Supreme Court ruled in January that the policy could move forward.
Other lawsuits challenging the policy are making their way through the judicial system.
The House resolution is purely a symbolic gesture. Sponsored by Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), it also is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
Declaring that the House “strongly opposes” the transgender ban, the measure goes on to reject “the flawed scientific and medical claims upon which it is based.” It “strongly urges” the Department of Defense to “to maintain an inclusive policy allowing qualified transgender Americans to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces.”
“What this policy is primarily based on is ignorance and bias against the transgender community,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said on the House floor. He added that his panel intends to work on legislation proposing changes to the ban.
“This is a messaging bill, and the message is: This is a bad policy,” he said of Thursday’s resolution. “When it comes to crafting the right policy in this area, it should be done in committee, and it will be done in committee.”
In a statement, LGBTQ rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign lauded the vote.
“Transgender service members have been serving openly throughout the U.S. armed forces with distinction for years, and, with this vote, the House has made clear that they support transgender troops,” the organization said. “Today’s bipartisan majority in the U.S. House join leading medical associations, national security experts and former military officials in opposing this dangerous and discriminatory policy.”
Administration officials have justified the ban, seen as a play to social conservatives who are a key part of Trump’s political base, by arguing that allowing openly transgender people to serve would be “too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”
However, a 2016 Rand Corp. study concluded that allowing transgender people to serve would “have benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force” and have “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”
The measure passed 238-185. The Republicans breaking with their GOP colleagues to back it were Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana, Will Hurd of Texas, and John Katko and Tom Reed, both of New York.