Out reps and allies denounce anti-LGBTQ+ provisions in House defense spending bill

Author: Trudy Ring

LGBTQ+ and allied representatives are denouncing the U.S. House’s approval of a defense spending bill full of anti-LGBTQ+ and other regressive positions — something that also sets up a fight with the Senate.

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed Friday, includes a ban on Pride flags at any Department of Defense location; prohibition of Defense Department funding of LGBTQ-inclusive materials at schools; denial of insurance coverage for gender-affirming care for military members and their dependents; a ban on funding for drag shows at military installations; elimination of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; prohibition of spending to carry out several of President Joe Biden’s initiatives to combat climate change; and denial of reimbursement for the expenses of any service member who must travel to obtain an abortion.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the NDAA Friday, sending it on to the full Senate. The committee has released only a summary of the measure, and the bill may be amended as the full Senate considers it, but it is unlikely to include the far-right provisions of the House version, as the Senate has a narrow Democratic majority. The two chambers must work out a version of the bill both can agree to before sending it to Biden.

In the House, which has a slight Republican majority, the bill passed by a vote of 217-199, mostly among party lines — there were only six Democrats in favor of the measure and three Republicans opposed.

Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, a gay man who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus, was quick to condemn the House bill. “Republicans love to claim how they support our troops in one breath, just to turn around and vote to discriminate against them with the next,” he said in a press release. “Like last year, House Republicans voted to add poison pill, anti-LGBTQI+ provisions to the NDAA that discriminate against our LGTBQI+ servicemembers and their families. The Equality Caucus remains committed to preventing these discriminatory provisions from becoming law.” Last year, the House and Senate ended up agreeing on a final version that did not include the anti-LGBTQ+ and other far-right amendments.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat, former Navy helicopter pilot, and member of the House Armed Services Committee, also denounced the bill. “Once again,” Republicans are “choosing to use the National Defense Authorization Act to shove their extremist culture war agenda down the throats of the American people,” she said on the House floor Thursday, according to The Washington Post. “Homophobia? Check. Racism? Check. Misogyny? Check. Serious policy amendments that will strengthen our national security? Far less important to this majority.”

During the debate Thursday, gay Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California pointedly defended drag. “We can document and celebrate drag shows on military bases since the late 1800s and through both world wars. The USO and the Red Cross supported drag during World War II,” he said. “That’s right: The Army that defeated Hitler and saved the world included drag queens.”

“Ronald Reagan starred in a movie called This Is the Army! — a movie about World War II that featured four drag performances,” Garcia continued. “And he’s not the only Republican president who knew that drag can be fun and sometimes silly.”

The debate saw many homophobic and transphobic comments, though. “Quite frankly, if you don’t know if you’re a man or a woman, you shouldn’t have your hand on the button that launches missiles,” Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana said in support of his amendment banning coverage of gender-affirming care, the Post reports.

But Rep. Adam Smith of Washington State, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, clapped back by calling Rosendale’s comments “completely wrong” and “bigoted and discriminatory.”

“Trans people have served in the military for a long time, even before it was officially allowed,” he noted. “Congress shouldn’t be making medical decisions.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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