House bill would protect military kids from attacks on transgender health care

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At least two national groups representing service members support the bill.

While several states considering bills attacking transgender youth's access to hormone treatments and puberty blockers this year, it remained unclear how the federal government would handle this issue for military families. Now, members of Congress have decided to step in and offer a solution.

On Tuesday, House Democrats introduced H.R. 3672, which ensures that service members' children will have access to the health care they need.

In April, the executive director of the Modern Military Association, Jennifer Dane, told the American Independent Foundation that she was concerned about how state anti-trans bills targeting this health care would affect service members with transgender kids who are eligible for enrollment in what is known as the Exceptional Family Member Program.

This program allows military kids who need specialized care of some kind to receive the health care they need, including for transgender youth.

But a problem remained that there weren't clear protections and guidance for them in the program should state laws vary at different military installations, Dane explained. And Dane said she is uncertain as to how the Biden administration would plan to handle the issue.

That's why her organization helped write this bill, which would protect family members of transgender dependents by making sure they won't be stationed in states that prohibit or limit this gender-affirming care in any way, according to CBS News. It would also protect them from placements in any countries with these restrictions. The text of the bill has yet to be posted to a Congressional website.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and has 40 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats. Several openly LGBTQ House members, including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mark Takano (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), and Chris Pappas (D-NH), are cosponsors.

"For too long now, we have seen military families turned away from receiving basic health care and discriminated against because they are modern military families that require certain considerations and support," Dane stated in an email to the American Independent Foundation.

She added, "It would effectively safeguard and protect military families from discrimination and harm, and eligibility for enrollment in the Exceptional Military Family Program. We should not have service members putting their lives on the line for our country only to go home having to fight for equal access for their families in the same country they have vowed to protect."

Blue Star Families, an organization founded by military spouses, also supports the legislation, as well as the LGBTQ groups National Center for Transgender Equality and Human Rights Campaign.

Jessica Girven, the spouse of a member of the U.S. Air Force and parent of a transgender child, said in a statement, "Without clearly stated law, our families are placed in situations where we have to decide between continuing military service or protecting our children."

This year, state lawmakers, the overwhelmingly majority of whom are Republicans, introduced more than 250 bills targeting the LGBTQ community, as part of a push from national groups opposing equality. At least 35 of these bills were focused on prohibiting gender-affirming care, including hormone treatments and puberty blockers, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Arkansas was the first state in the nation to enact such a ban when its Legislature decided to override Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of the bill in April.

The only other state that has passed restrictions on health care for transgender youth has been Tennessee, but that ban is on gender-affirming care for minors who haven't entered puberty yet, treatments that have never been offered to children before, LGBTQ advocates and medical experts have explained.

Democrats in Congress recently introduced another bill that would provide protections for families and LGBTQ kids. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) sponsored H.R. 3488, named the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act of 2021, which was introduced on May 25. It prohibits sex-based discrimination, including anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and discrimination based on religion and marital status in child welfare services. The bill's also aims to "improve safety, well-being, and permanency" for LGBTQ foster youth. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the bill in the Senate on May 26.

Although the full text of the bill is unavailable, a press release from Family Equality says it would require data collection for LGBTQ kids and families in child welfare and bans "conversion therapy" in foster care, among other measures. "Conversion therapy" is a harmful practice that tells LGBTQ people that they can and should change their sexual orientation or gender or that they should not live openly as LGBTQ people. A similar version of the bill was introduced in the 2019-2020 session.

In February, the House passed the Equality Act, with mostly Democratic support. Only three Republicans voted for the bill. On March 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill. But its path forward in the chamber is uncertain given that the bill would need votes from 10 or 11 Republicans, depending on whether Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has been critical of the bill, ended up supporting it, according to the Daily Beast. Christian right-wing donors have poured money into efforts to kill the bill, the publication explained.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.