Published: June 1, 2021
Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California and 40 other House Democrats introduced legislation on Tuesday that would prevent military service members with family members or spouses who are transgender or gender-nonconforming from being stationed in a state or country that prohibits or limits gender affirming health care and treatments.
The legislation comes as states across the country have passed or are considering passing legislation to limit health care provided to transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals and youth.
Arkansas became the first state in the US to prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming treatment for trans people under age 18 after the state’s General Assembly voted to override the governor’s veto in April. At least a dozen other states are considering similar legislation to the Arkansas law that would limit health care available to transgender youth, according to the American Civil Liberties Union’s anti-trans bill tracker.
Panetta, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, introduced the legislation that would protect military service members’ dependents on the first day of Pride month, when the world’s LGBTQ+ communities celebrate their freedoms and individuality.
“Despite the progress that we have made in our fight for LGBTQ equality, service members and their transgender dependents continue to face hurdles that threaten their development,” Panetta said in a press release.
Blue Star Families, an advocacy organization that works with and supports military families, endorsed the legislation.
“We know from our research that location matters, and some active-duty families might even choose to separate from the service rather than relocate to an area where they might be discriminated against,” Kathy Roth-Douquet, the group’s CEO & co-founder said in a press release. “No family should be forced to choose between a sense of belonging and continued service to the nation.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has made diversity and inclusion in the military branches a priority since becoming secretary in January. President Joe Biden, alongside Austin, repealed a Trump-era ban on most transgender individuals serving in the military on January 25, days after taking office.
“We represent the United States of America. We ought to look like America, and not only in the ranks,” Austin said in an interview with CNN’s Barbara Starr on Friday. “I think we’re doing a great job in terms of recruiting the right kinds of people, providing access to people from every corner, every walk of life in this country. As long as you’re, as you’re, you’re fit and you can qualify, there’s a place for you on this team.”
The legislation is endorsed by several advocacy organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, Modern Military Association of America and The Trevor Project, among others.