Arizona Senator John McCain, a
Republican, has co-sponsored legislation introduced Friday which
seeks to block President Donald Trump's ban on transgender troops.
In a statement, McCain declared his
support for transgender people serving in the military.
“When less than one percent of
Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome
all those who are willing and able to serve our country,” McCain
said. “Any member of the military who meets the medical and
readiness standards should be allowed to serve – including those
who are transgender. The Senate Armed Services Committee will review
the results of the DOD study on accession and will continue to work
closely with our military leaders on any policy changes as we conduct
oversight on this important issue.”
Trump first announced the policy change
in July on Twitter. The White House last month issued guidance on
implementing the ban. The guidance directs the military to bar
transgender people from entering the military and to stop paying for
the transition-related health care of active duty transgender troops,
but stops short of banning transgender troops, leaving the decision
of what the military should do about active-duty transgender troops
to military leaders. The Pentagon on Friday said that transgender
troops currently in the military can re-enlist as it studies the
troops can re-enlist in military, for now.)
McCain's support for the bill is
striking, given his opposition to lifting “Don't Tell, Don't Tell,”
the now-ended policy that prohibited gay and bisexual troops from
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a
Democrat, introduced the legislation on Thursday after her amendment
with identical goals to a must-pass military bill was blocked by
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senate Bill 1820 is also co-sponsored
by Senators Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and Susan
Collins, a Republican from Maine.
The bill, however, would not direct the
Pentagon to accept transgender people into the armed forces.
Instead, it relies on a military study on the issue announced June 30
by Defense Secretary James Mattis, setting a February 21 deadline for
the study to reach Congress. It also does not mention the issue of
transition-related health care, presumably an attempt to gain support
among Senate Republicans.
rejects Vicky Hartzler amendment that sought to block health care for
In an interview Friday on WNYC's Brian
Lehrer Show, Gillibrand thanked McCain for his support.
“What Sen. McCain did last night is
agree that he will be on a stand-alone bill, which sends a huge
message,” Gillibrand said. “I can’t tell you how meaningful it
is to have the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a
Republican, who clearly is devoted and loves the troops, to stand
with me and Susan Collins to say this is wrong, you cannot be kicked
out if you’re transgender, and that you cannot be discriminated
against based on your gender-identity. It’s huge.”