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House votes to end military ban on transgender troops

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Coronavirus relief programs are due to run out in the coming weeks and months. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The House adopted by voice vote an amendment to the fiscal 2021 Defense appropriations bill Thursday that would effectively bring an end to the Trump administration’s severe restrictions on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military.

The amendment was tucked into a massive en bloc package of amendments that were attached to the six-bill spending package that includes defense funding.

Introduced by California Democrat Jackie Speier, chairwoman of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, the amendment would block the use of funds to implement policy issued in April 2019 that would bar transgender people from joining the military and even keep some transgender people who are already serving from staying in.

The policy permits waivers, but critics say they are virtually nonexistent.

“The military has granted only one waiver to a transgender servicemember, exposing the President’s discriminatory policy for what it is — a virtual ban on military service by brave transgender Americans,” Speier said in a statement for CQ Roll Call this week.

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A similar amendment was included in the House defense authorization bill last year, but was stripped out of the final NDAA conference agreement. There is no such language in the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill, which the House approved last week.

The language, however, faces tough odds during conference negotiations with the Senate.

Also included in the first en bloc package are a number of other politically contentious amendments.

One such amendment by Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, would prohibit the use of funds provided by the defense bill to implement an April 2018 Justice Department memorandum regarding a “zero-tolerance policy” in the prosecution of criminal immigration offenses along the southwest U.S. border.

Another, sponsored by Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., would prohibit the bill’s funds from being used for the acquisition of chemical weapons for domestic riot control. The language comes after an at times violent response by federal and local enforcement to the nationwide protests that emerged following the police killing of George Floyd.

Lawmakers will also vote on several stand-alone amendments. Among them is a provision by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., that would prohibit the use of funds for military recruitment via the e-sports streaming platform Twitch and other e-sports activities.

Last week, the Army was accused of censorship on its Twitch channel, and announced it would pause streaming via the wildly popular platform.

The House expects to pass the appropriations package by Friday.

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© 2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.