GOP Defense Bill Stripped of Anti-LGBTQ+ and Anti-Abortion Measures

Author: Christopher Wiggins

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2024, encompassing an $886 billion defense policy, has marked a pivotal moment in Congress, particularly regarding LGBTQ-related issues, as most of Republicans’ anti-LGBTQ+ measures were removed from the bill.

After months of intense negotiations between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats, the bill’s final form discards several controversial amendments initially championed by conservative lawmakers. These amendments included a ban on the coverage of transition surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender troops and a severe curtailing of diversity programs.

Despite the removal of direct anti-LGBTQ+ amendments, the NDAA retained some conservative victories. These include a ban on endorsing critical race theory in the military, a salary cap, and a hiring freeze for Pentagon employees working on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Additionally, language encouraging the service branches to allow the reenlistment of troops discharged solely for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine was included.

At the heart of the NDAA discussions were amendments from Republican extremist lawmakers concerning the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to focusing on restricting gender-affirming health care for transgender service members and dependents, Republicans sought to limit access to LGBTQ-themed literature in the Department of Defense Education Activity’s libraries. These provisions were notably absent from the bill. DoDEA runs American schools abroad and on military bases in the U.S. for children of servicemembers. The exclusions are a considerable victory for LGBTQ+ rights amid an onslaught of bills targeting the community’s rights by Republicans nationwide.

However, the NDAA still retains elements that have raised concerns among LGBTQ+ advocates. A provision that could potentially impact the display of “unapproved” flags at military installations, including LGBTQ+ Pride flags, has remained, highlighting ongoing challenges regarding LGBTQ+ representation and rights within the military. Additionally, a provision that bans funds used for drag performances on military installations remains intact.

Reacting to these legislative changes, noted GOP homophobe and transphobe from Georgia, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, voiced strong opposition to the removal of conservative amendments, labeling the defense bill a “sellout” to Democrats and declaring firmly, “I’m a HELL NO!” on X, formerly Twitter.

The debate around the NDAA’s LGBTQ+ provisions also reflects a broader national conversation about the role of gender and sexual identity in military policy. Advocates for LGBTQ+ rights argue that inclusive policies are not only a matter of equality but also enhance the overall effectiveness of the military by ensuring that all service members can serve openly and without fear of discrimination. This perspective is shared by many military leaders who recognize the value of diversity within the armed forces.

One additional notable conservative priority that did not make it into the final bill was the proposal to end a Pentagon policy that provides service members with time off and travel reimbursement for reproductive health care. This policy aspect had been a significant point of contention, with Democrats firmly opposing its removal and considering it a critical issue.

Opponents of the excluded provisions, like Greene, argue that such measures are necessary to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of the military. They often frame their opposition as a defense of traditional values and military readiness, reflecting a deeply rooted ideological divide in the United States.

Human Rights Campaign national press secretary Brandon Wolf commented on the NDAA’s progress, stating, “MAGA members of Congress tried to hijack the National Defense Authorization Act to advance their anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, attempting to riddle it with discriminatory riders. They failed, and equality won.”

He added, “The anti-LGBTQ+ agenda continues to be deeply unpopular across the country and a failing political strategy. MAGA extremists overplayed their hand, and their attempts to use the NDAA to attack our community backfired.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York announced on Thursday that the Senate is poised to vote on the NDAA early next week. Following the Senate’s decision, the House of Representatives is expected to cast its vote. If the must-pass legislation receives approval — continuing a six-decade tradition of annual authorization — it will then be forwarded to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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