U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Republicans Pass Anti-LGBTQ Amendments with Defense Spending Bill

House Republicans on Thursday passed a series of anti-LGBTQ amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, which establishes recommended funding levels for the U.S. Department of Defense each year.

The legislation also carries riders from GOP members attacking abortion access and diversity programs.

The anti-LGBTQ amendments, which were introduced by Republican U.S. Reps. Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.), would:

  • Undermine protections against race and LGBTQ discrimination in the military;
  • Restrict abortion access;
  • Deny essential healthcare, including gender-affirming care, to transgender service members and military families;
  • Eliminate access to the Exceptional Family Member Program for trans or gender nonconforming youth and family members thereby limiting healthcare access based on location;
  • Codify the prohibition on drag shows and use of drag queens as digital ambassadors;
  • Ban books that do not uphold the gender binary as well as disallow Pride month instruction and/or celebration at DoD Education Activity schools; and
  • Allowing only certain flags to be flown over military installations — thereby prohibiting Pride flags from being flown.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans continued their relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ people today by using the National Defense Authorization Act to push their anti-equality agenda,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“They showed their complete disregard for our LGBTQ+ servicemembers by adopting amendments that strip medically-necessary care from transgender servicemembers and their families, censor LGBTQ+ servicemembers by prohibiting the display of Pride flags, and ban books that include transgender people or discuss gender identity,” the congressman said.

Democratic leaders in the House Armed Services Committee issued a statement on Thursday in which they objected to the amendments which, they argue, adulterated the bipartisan and pro-equality NDAA that they passed with their GOP colleagues.

“The bill we passed out of committee sent a clear, united message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people that democracy still works, and Congress is still functional,” they wrote. “We made clear that we are dedicated to recruiting and retaining the strongest, most diverse fighting force and ensuring that everyone, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals, would have the same chance to serve without having to work harder or sacrifice more for the same opportunities.”

“That bill no longer exists. What was once an example of compromise and functioning government has become an ode to bigotry and ignorance. Attacks on reproductive rights, access to basic health care, and efforts to address our country’s history of racism and marginalization of huge swaths of our country will worsen our recruitment and retention crisis, make our military less capable, and do grievous harm to our national defense and national security,” they added.

U.S. Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) issued a separate statement on her vote against the NDAA, writing that “many service members in San Diego are living in their cars because they can’t afford housing, lack affordable child care, or can’t put food on the table — and this massive $886 billion barely makes a dent in improving their quality of life.”

“Instead, Republicans scrapped the bipartisan package that we passed through the House Armed Services Committee and jammed through their far-right wish list, despite the needs of our service members and military families.

“House Republicans stripped out DoD’s policy covering the travel and transportation costs for abortion and fertility care — even though it’s consistent with existing law. They passed cuts to necessary gender-affirming care — even though transgender people are more likely to serve in the U.S. military than cisgender people. And House Republicans backed policies to attack diversity programs that help ensure that those defending our country look like our country,” the congresswoman wrote.

U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) also issued a statement, “Regrettably, I must oppose this bill, which is dead-on-arrival in the U.S. Senate.”

“I owe it to my constituents to vote no on any legislation that would strip away reproductive healthcare from our servicemembers, eliminate crucial diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and discriminate against transgender servicemembers,” Brown said.

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a letter to congressional offices urging members to oppose the NDAA amendments “that seek to undermine protections against race discrimination in the military, restrict abortion access, and deny health coverage to transgender service members and military families, and censor protected speech.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to the White House for comment.

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade via the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here: https://nationallgbtmediaassociation.com/