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If GOP Senators Want to Win in 2018, They’ll Kill This NDAA Transgender Amendment

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Out of the hundreds of amendments proposed to the National Defense Authorization Act, the defense policy bill on the Senate floor this week, one amendment put forth by Senators Kristin Gillibrand (D) and Susan Collins (R) has stood out in particular. It captured the media’s attention for two reasons:

First, these senators have now charged into the quagmire of debate over how to craft policy addressing people who identify as transgender.

And second, these senators have cast themselves as brave members of the resistance, linking arms across the aisle to directly oppose mean old President Trump’s bigoted ban on transgender persons in the military. 

The problem with the Gillibrand-Collins proposal to prohibit “discrimination on the basis of gender identity” in the military is that they create a whole new set of problems by mischaracterizing concerns about the military’s affirmation of transgender identity. Just vague enough to sound harmless, this portion of the Gillibrand-Collins amendment purports to outlaw discrimination against current service members “solely on the basis of the member’s gender identity.” Much like the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity laws—or SOGI laws—that keep popping up around the country, however, the Gillibrand-Collins amendment makes “gender identity” into a protected class within the military. This action would legally equate gender identity, which is subjective and unverifiable, with objective and unchangeable traits like race. 

Gillibrand and Collins’ proposed “solution” completely ignores the fact that the military doesn’t actually care about its members’ gender identities. The military is not the thought police. The military does care about the consequences of trying to change oneself into something one is not. This includes the host of privacy concerns for female service members who wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing close sleeping and bathing quarters with anatomical males; protections for doctors and psychiatrists who don’t think that sex reassignment is a good way to treat gender dysphoria; religious freedom protections for chaplains who don’t believe in affirming a transgender lifestyle; and of course all of the money spent on sex reassignment surgery and cross-sex hormone therapy for members who are then unable to deploy for well over 200 days. A transgender Army veteran even notes the unfairness of a biological male identifying as a woman then outperforming the biological females in physical fitness tests, which then affects the promotion system. 

As others have noted, the most important issue at stake here is whether recruiting and retaining transgender service members hurts or helps military readiness. While it is true that our military needs more personnel to serve, and respects the bravery of anyone who wants to make that sacrifice, there are many, many medical conditions that disqualify well-intentioned volunteers from serving. Asthma and diabetes, for example, are conditions that would hinder a member’s ability to deploy, fight, and win in the commonly harsh battlefields; where there is no room in the medic bag for injections, and no ready treatment for asthma attacks. 

Moreover, the higher levels of psychological distress among people who identify as transgender should be taken seriously before admitting them into military life. As the director of the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation put it recently

“Some studies report that transgender individuals attempt suicide and experience psychological distress at rates many times the U.S. national average. To be clear, this is self-reported data, not data gleaned from rigorously controlled, clinical tests. But at this time, these survey results are the best available data. It would be both irresponsible and immoral to place such individuals in a position where they are exposed to the additional extraordinary stresses and pressures of the battlefield.”

In other words, our military’s duty to spend resources in a manner that best protects our country—as well as the privacy, professional, conscience, and religious rights of many more service men and women—will be branded as discrimination on the basis of gender identity and thrown out the window. This is exactly what is happening across the country under similar SOGI laws. These laws do not stop real discrimination against people who identify as transgender. They only criminalize and stigmatize good people who are caught in the crosshairs when a man tries to live as if he were a woman and a woman tries to live as if she were a man.

If Republican senators are wise, they will not even let this amendment come to a vote. Should they be as spineless as the 24 Republican representatives who voted against Rep. Hartzler’s amendment to stop the Pentagon from paying for controversial sex-reassignment surgeries, they will be attaching a dangerous provision to a must-pass bill—a provision that can turn thousands of good, intelligent, and faithful military members into the legal equivalent of racist bigots. 

As Trump’s directive stated, Secretary of Defense General Mattis is currently awaiting feedback from a study and military advisors before deciding how to address current service members who wish to live and work as the opposite sex. Rather than allowing this reasonable policy process to proceed, the Gillibrand-Collins amendment would suppress debate and lock the military into harmful policy.

So far, the media has gleefully headlined this amendment as a bipartisan one in order to make it seem less controversial than it really is—and the GOP Senate would be absolutely foolish to believe this spin. When the people who put President Trump in office see these headlines, however, they read that Republicans are joining the Democrat crusade to obstruct the mandate they gave to Trump and his agenda. New reports on Trump voters are emerging all the time, and two very clear conclusions can be drawn: President Trump is still more popular than Congress, and the future of the Republican Party lies with social conservatives, not moderate sell-outs. 

For those Republican senators who can’t yet bring themselves to face this fact, it will be best if they don’t even allow this Gillibrand-Collins amendment to come to a vote, lest they go on record voting for this anti-Trump, anti-American, anti-freedom, anti-common sense amendment. If they do, though, we’ll have their names.

Anna Anderson is a graduate of Hillsdale College and is the Director of Religious Freedom at American Principles Project, a conservative think tank dedicated to advancing human dignity through public policy.

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