It was always clear that Vice President Mike Pence was no friend to LGBT people, but now there’s further confirmation in the form of a Foreign Policy article that reports he’s been working against transgender-inclusive military policies.
“Pence and his staff have been working quietly to get Congress to roll back the Defense Department’s year-old policy covering medical procedures for transitioning service members, according to sources,” Foreign Policy reported today.
Transgender people already in the military have been able to serve openly and have access to insurance coverage for such procedures since last year, under a policy announced by Ash Carter, Defense secretary under President Obama. Previously, trans people were barred from serving, although many did — in the closet and without the coverage. The enrollment of new trans recruits was supposed to begin July 1 of this year, but the current Defense secretary, James Mattis, decided to delay that by six months.
The House of Representatives July 13 narrowly voted down an amendment to a Defense spending bill put forth by Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, which would have banned coverage of transition-related medical procedures. But Pence, who has many contacts in Congress from his days as a representative from Indiana, has been trying to build support for such an amendment, according to Foreign Policy’s sources.
Pence spokesman Marc Lotter denied that the vice president is involved in any effort like this. He “has been focused on health care,” Lotter told Foreign Policy. “I am not aware of him speaking to any members about this.” But given Pence’s anti-LGBT record as a congressman and as governor of Indiana, his involvement wouldn’t be surprising.
Other far-right Republican House members have now submitted amendments to ban funding of transition procedures. One introduced by Scott Perry of Pennsylvania has the most support, Foreign Policy reports. It says, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to provide medical treatment related to gender transition.” Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas has filed an amendment to stop funding as well, and Rep. Steve King of Iowa has filed one banning the use of funds for transgender sensitivity training courses or to “screen members of the Armed Forces regarding gender reassignment surgery.”
Conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom have been lobbying for these measures. Proponents of such funding bans estimate that transition-related medical costs will amount to more than $3.7 billion over 10 years, but studies from The New England Journal of Medicine and the Rand Corp. project much lower costs, between $24 million and $84 million, over the same time period, Foreign Policy notes. That would be a tiny fraction of the military budget, which amounts to about $600 billion annually.
“The Department of Defense does not want these amendments, and neither do we,” Matt Thorn, the executive director of OutServe-SLDN, told the magazine. “Transgender service members have been serving, openly and authentically, since October 2016 with no impact on readiness or lethality of the force.”
Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen also voiced opposition, releasing a statement to Foreign Policy that said “it would be unprecedented” for Congress to stop medical treatment for service members. “The military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness. I urge the Congress to respect the military’s judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms,” Mullen added.