Sen. Tammy Duckworth Urges Congress to Block Trans Military Ban

Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a decorated military veteran who was severely wounded in Iraq, has called for Congress to block Donald Trump’s announced ban on transgender people in the military.

“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter after I was shot down, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown,” Duckworth said in a statement posted today on her Senate website. “All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind. If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve — no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation. Anything else is not just discriminatory, it is disruptive to our military and it is counterproductive to our national security. If the President enacts this ban, which would harm our military readiness, the Democratic and Republican Members of Congress who oppose this discrimination must enact legislation that prevents it from taking effect.”

Duckworth issued the statement in response to reports that the White House has prepared a memo instructing the Department of Defense on to implementation of the ban, which Trump announced via Twitter July 26, reversing a decision made by Barack Obama’s administration to lift the previous ban.

A memo headed from the White House to Defense Secretary James Mattis directs him and his staff to determine if trans troops are able to serve in a war zone or manage months aboard a ship, and allow these “deployable” troops to continue serving. However, the memo also prohibits government spending on transition-related health care for active-duty trans service members, continues to block the recruitment of new trans troops, and directs the military not to renew the enlistment contracts of any trans people serving. It gives Mattis and the Department of Defense six months to come up with a policy within these parameters.

Duckworth, a former House member who was elected to the Senate last year, is a Democrat and strong LGBT ally. She was one of the first women in the Army to fly combat missions during the Iraq war. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. On November 12 of that year, her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, causing Duckworth to lose both her legs and partial use of her right arm. A staunch advocate for service members and veterans, she retired from the National Guard in 2014 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

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