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Pro-Equality Lawmakers Demand Removal of Anti-LGBTQ+ Sections From Defense Bill

Pro-Equality Lawmakers Demand Removal of Anti-LGBTQ+ Sections From Defense Bill

Pramila Jayapal, Mark Pocan, and Sara Jacobs

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes bans on trans health care, Pride flags, drag shows, and more.

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As U.S. House and Senate negotiators seek to reconcile conflicting versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, LGBTQ+ Congress members and allies are calling for the removal of anti-LGBTQ+ provisions in the House version.

U.S. Reps. Sara Jacobs and Pramila Jayapal, cochairs of the Transgender Equality Task Force, and Mark Pocan, chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, sent a letter Thursday to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Another 152 Democratic House members signed on.

“We write to strongly urge the removal of multiple sections in the House-passed NDAA that actively target LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents and threaten the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces,” they said.

These sections include bans on coverage of gender-affirming care under insurance programs for military members and their dependents or reassignment to an area where such care is accessible; bans on drag shows and drag queen story hours on military bases; a prohibition on display of certain flags, including Pride flags; and a ban on funding for books that mention gender identity in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

“These sections of the House-passed NDAA were constructed to score political points rather than support and invest in our most important operational advantage: our service members,” the letter concludes. “If service members are concerned for their health care, their right to exist, or the well-being of their children and loved ones, they cannot focus on their jobs, thereby weakening military readiness and retention rates. Ensuring our ranks reflect the diversity of the American people is essential to the morale and cohesion of our Armed Forces and to our national security. We strongly urge you to remove these harmful sections from the NDAA during conference negotiations.”

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill in July by a vote of 219-210. Besides the specifically anti-LGBTQ+ provisions, it includes other right-wing ones, such as a ban on reimbursement of expenses for service members who have to travel to another state to obtain an abortion. The Defense Department has been providing this reimbursement because numerous states have banned or severely restricted abortion after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling last year.

The Democratic-majority Senate passed its version of the bill, without the anti-LGBTQ+ or anti-abortion amendments, by a vote of 86-11. The House and Senate must agree on the bill before it goes to President Biden for his signature.

The NDAA is considered a “must-pass” piece of legislation. It sets spending goals for the military — $886 billion this year — but is a policy bill, separate from the 12 appropriations bills pending in Congress that actually provide the money. The House versions of those bills include anti-LGBTQ+ provisions too. The various appropriations bills are still being debated in Congress, over the anti-LGBTQ+ sections and other issues, including spending cuts. Failure to pass them by the end of September would result in a shutdown of the federal government.

Pictured, from left: U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Mark Pocan, and Sara Jacobs

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.