Washington, D.C. — Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Reps. Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Co-Chairs of the Transgender Equality Task Force, and Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02), Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, led 155 total Democratic House Members in a push to remove anti-LGBTQ+ measures from the final version of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In a letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership, the lawmakers called for the removal of sections in the House-passed NDAA targeting LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents that will undermine the military’s recruitment, retention, and readiness.
The lawmakers wrote:
“As the House and Senate conferees negotiate the final Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we write to strongly urge the removal of multiple sections in the House-passed NDAA that actively target LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents and threaten the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces.
“These provisions include:
“1. SEC. 717. Prohibition on coverage of certain sex reassignment surgeries and related services under the TRICARE program.
The U.S. government should not prohibit our service members from accessing medically necessary care. Gender-affirming care is safe, effective, and supported by every major medical association in the U.S., representing more than 1.3 million doctors. This care is essential for service members to be their authentic selves and focus on their mission. Denying this access to health care would deter eligible and qualified people from joining the Armed Forces, damage retention efforts, and hurt our military readiness. As our nation faces steep recruitment and retention challenges, attacking transgender people – who are more likely to serve in the U.S. military than cisgender people – is a grave mistake.
“2. SEC. 640C. Prohibitions on provisions of gender transition services through an exceptional family member program of the Armed Forces.
This section prohibits dependents enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) from receiving gender-affirming care. It also prohibits service members from being reassigned to a different duty station via the EFMP for the purpose of providing their dependents with gender-affirming care. These policy changes are antithetical to the goals of the EFMP and will create additional struggles for military families. When the government prevents service members from supporting their children in accessing the health care that they want and need, these military families will leave the services, hurting our military retention and readiness.
“3. SEC. 1048. Prohibition on display of unapproved flags.
This section prohibits the display of Pride flags in any workplace, common access area, or public area of the Department of Defense — sending a strong message that LGBTQ+ people do not belong and aren’t welcome. This is dangerous to military morale, readiness, and retention. Especially when the LGBTQ+ community is under attack, displaying a Pride flag shows that LGBTQ+ people belong and are seen. Displaying Pride flags is an important way for service members and DOD civilian employees to express that they are committed to creating an affirming and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people — or a way to celebrate their own identity.
“4. SEC. 661. Prohibition on availability of funds for certain books in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.
At its core, America is a country that values and protects the freedom of speech and the open expression of ideas, yet this section erases the existence of transgender people by banning books that mention gender identity. Censoring books that are inclusive of transgender people sets a dangerous precedent that politicians can censor a range of school content based on politicians’ ideologies. Schools should focus on creating supportive learning environments, not censoring content. Children of service members are already exposed to more stress and uncertainty due to frequent moves and putting them in unaccepting or unsafe classrooms is unfair to our military families that sacrifice so much for our country.
“5. SEC. 595. Prohibition on Drag Shows and Drag Queen Story Hour
Drag artists and their performances serve as an essential form of self-expression and drag performances have long been a part of military history, tracing back to World War I and World War II. Despite this history, this section takes the extraordinary step of statutorily banning a single art form—drag—that is associated with a minority community, the LGBTQ+ community, from our military bases. Drag events on military bases are often sponsored by private groups and do not utilize federal funding, but this language would functionally eliminate the opportunity for private groups to host future events.
“These sections of the House-passed NDAA were constructed to score political points rather than support and invest in our most important operational advantage: our service members. If service members are concerned for their health care, their right to exist, or the well-being of their children and loved ones, they cannot focus on their jobs, thereby weakening military readiness and retention rates. Ensuring our ranks reflect the diversity of the American people is essential to the morale and cohesion of our Armed Forces and to our national security. We strongly urge you to remove these harmful sections from the NDAA during conference negotiations.”
Read the full text of the letter here.
Issues: LGBTQIA+ Rights