New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins are teaming up to fight President Trump's ban on transgender soldiers. The two introduced a bipartisan defense amendment on Monday that would prevent the military from dismissing transgender people already serving because of their gender identity.
"Any individual who wants to join our military and meets the standards should be allowed to serve, period. Gender identity should have nothing to do with it," Gillibrand said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "I am proud to work with Sen. Collins to introduce our bipartisan amendment to protect transgender members of our Armed Forces, and I will always fight for our brave transgender troops who put their lives on the line to protect our country."
The amendment was attached to a big defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, that allocates almost $700 billion for the Department of Defense. Along with prohibiting transgender service members from being kicked out of the Armed Forces, Gillibrand's and Collins' measure would also require Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to complete the study of transgender military service he announced in August by the end of the year.
The review was commissioned after President Trump signed an executive order banning transgender recruits from enlisting in the military and prohibiting the Pentagon from paying for gender confirmation surgeries. Trump left the question of trans folks already serving to Defense Secretary Mattis — but Gillibrand and Collins want to make sure he doesn't enforce a total ban of trans soldiers, as Trump first proposed.
Although the larger defense bill is on the Senate floor, the amendment might not be brought to a vote. Even if it is, it's unclear if it have the 60 votes needed to pass, but 43 senators (including Gillibrand and Collins) sent a letter to Mattis in July asking him not to discharge trans service members.
Gillibrand and Collins were also both at the forefront of repealing "don't ask, don't tell," the policy that allowed gay and lesbian service members to be discharged because of their sexual orientation. Collins was one of only eight Republicans to support the repeal in 2010, and she's leading the fight to protect LGBTQ service members' rights once again.