The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday rejected a measure that would ban the Department of Defense (DOD) from funding transition-related health care for transgender service members.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) submitted an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would prohibit the DOD from providing “medical treatment related to gender transition,” but would allow for “mental health treatment” related to it.
The House rejected Hartzler’s amendment with a 214-209 vote. No Democrats voted for the amendment, and 24 GOP representatives opposed the measure.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that the defeat of the amendment sent a “resounding message of support” for transgender service members and their families.
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“This dangerous amendment would have put at risk the health and wellbeing of military families, and threatened military readiness and national security,” Griffin said. “We applaud those members from both parties who stood up for the thousands of transgender service members proudly serving their country.”
There are around 15,500 transgender people on active duty or in the reserves, according to an analysis by the Williams Institute.
Hartzler previously offered an amendment to the NDAA to prohibit transgender people from openly serving in the military, and has characterized allowing transgender people to do so as a “domestic threat.”
Hartzler said in a statement that the amendment rejected Thursday does not prevent transgender people from joining the military or deny transgender service members health care.
“It simply makes sure our defense resources are allocated in a way that is smart and good for our national defense,” she said.
Hartzler has claimed that the cost of gender transition surgeries would cost the military $1.35 billion over the next ten years. She told USA Today her staff “conducted their own research” as to the cost of such health care.
During the floor debate, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) cited questionable figures in a statement supporting the discriminatory amendment.
“By my figures, we are projected to pay $3.7 billion over the next ten years for sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy for those in the military that wish to transition from one sex to another,” Perry said.
A Pentagon-commissioned study by the RAND corporation on the cost of gender transition-related health care for transgender personnel found that it would cost the DOD between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.
“Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy,” according to the study.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said during the floor debate that the amendment would take the military in the “wrong direction,” and would unfairly target one group of people.
“This isn’t going to help readiness,” Smith said. “This is a social agenda that has no business being in the defense bill. We didn’t have it in committee. We shouldn’t have it here on the floor.”