Working closely with other national LGBT organizations and our outside lobbying team partners, Equality California’s Washington, D.C., office celebrated a big win last week when an anti-transgender amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act was defeated by a vote of 209-214.
The amendment, introduced by virulently anti-LGBT Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), would have prohibited military funds being used for transgender servicemembers needing medical treatment related to gender transition, including hormone therapy.
The Hartzler amendment contained wildly exaggerated cost estimates of transition-related care at $700 million annually, “not including hormone therapy and plastic surgery or other long-term care” totaling $1.35 billion over ten years. An exhaustive RAND Corp report estimated that only 25-130 people will need transition-related surgeries each year, costing less than $30,000 per person. According to RAND, the annual outlay would be between $2.4 and $8.4 million — roughly one one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s nearly $50 billion health care budget.
Equality California was pleasantly surprised that of the 24 Republicans who voted against the ugly amendment, four were Californians who don’t often support the LGBTQ community including Rep. Paul Cook (Yucca Valley), Rep. Jeff Denham (Turlock), Rep. Darrell Issa (Vista), and Rep. Steve Knight (Lancaster).
By sharp contrast, Rep. Duncan Hunter (San Diego) called opposition to the Hartzler amendment “silly” sneering, “You’re joining the U.S. military. Figure out if you’re a man or a woman before you join up.”
The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in September 2011 lifted the ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the military but did not address transgender people. This was rectified last summer as the Pentagon lifted the ban on active transgender troops. The DOD’s original timeline would have allowed transgender people to begin enlisting on July 1, 2017, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pushed back the date by six months, saying that the military needed more time to analyze whether the “readiness and lethality of our forces” would be affected by transgender recruits. The postponed date is now January 1, 2018.
Of a total of 1.3 million active-duty troops, between 6,000 and 14,000 transgender people are estimated to be currently serving in the U.S. military. California is home to approximately 191,000 active military.