A proposed amendment that would have prevented transgender troops from receiving healthcare was narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The amendment $696 billion defense authorization bill failed by a vote of 209-214 as a surprising 24 House Republicans and 190 Democrats voted against it. The proposed amendment was introduced by Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), and would have blocked the military from providing funding for essential care such as hormone replacement therapy and gender confirmation surgeries for transgender troops and their families.
“It’s a hurtful amendment, it’s not needed.” – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami)
The amendment seemed all but certain to pass after the rules committee approved it straight down party lines by a vote of 8-2, with Democratic Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Patrick McGovern of Massachusetts being the only two dissenting voices.
Pressure against the amendment came immediately from LGBT+ advocates including the ACLU, who wrote a letter to congress calling the amendment a “discriminatory, unconstitutional attack on transgender service members and their families.” LGBT military groups the American Military Partner Association and OutServe-SLDN called the amendment a “vicious attack.” One noted Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), who has a transgender son, also spoke out. “It’s a hurtful amendment, it’s not needed,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “I view it as a personal issue, because as a mom I’m impacted, but it’s an issue of fairness for everyone. You don’t have to know someone that’s transgender or have someone in your immediate family to feel this impact. It’s just needlessly hurtful and serves no useful purpose.”
In another surprising move, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called Hartzler on Thursday to urge her to withdraw the amendment according to a confirmed report by CNN. The request came as the military continues to weigh the impact of allowing transgender people to enlist after requesting a six-month delay.