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House OK's Defense Funding Bill That Would Undo Trans Military Ban


The bill, which must be reconciled with the Senate's version, also would make it easier for LGB veterans to upgrade their discharge status.

The U.S. House of Representatives today gave final approval to undoing Donald Trump's transgender military ban.

A provision reversing the ban was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill setting defense spending for the coming fiscal year. The bill must now be reconciled with a version passed by the Republican-controlled Senate last month, which did not contain the repeal amendment and other pro-LGBTQ measures. These parts of the bill may not survive the reconciliation process, but today's action was still cause for celebration for LGBTQ activists.

"Today's vote sends a powerful message to our transgender troops, their families, and their fellow service members that they have our country's full support," Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release. "We are grateful to all the troops and veterans who spoke out against this discriminatory ban, and to our partners who helped lead the fight. Reps. Adam Smith and Jackie Speier, along with fellow members of Congress, tirelessly advocated for equality in our country and helped ensure that transgender service members can serve our nation openly and freely."

Smith, a Democrat from Washington State, chairs the House Armed Service Committee and sponsored the bill as a whole. Speier, a California Democrat, sponsored the amendment that would undo the trans ban by mandating that the armed forces cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The House added her amendment to the funding bill Thursday.

The final bill also contained an amendment offered by Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who is gay, to make it easier for service members discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" to upgrade their discharge status, and one by Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland, also a Democrat, that requires the gathering of data on how many transgender people were denied enlistment in the military.

"By passing the NDAA with these incredibly important amendments, the U.S. House of Representatives just sent a powerful message of support to all of the brave patriots who serve our nation in uniform -- including LGBTQ service members and veterans," Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, said in a statement, according to Metro Weekly. He urged members of Congress to include these amendments in the reconciled version of the bill.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 220 to 197, with all Republicans and only eight Democrats in opposition, Politico reports. In addition to its pro-LGBTQ amendments, it has other provisions that are likely to set up conflicts with Trump and Senate Republicans. For one, it would limit the president's ability to take military action against Iran without congressional approval. It also calls for curtailing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and expanding benefits available to military personnel. And the House bill provides for a lower amount of spending, $733 billion, than the Senate bill, $750 billion.

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