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McCain Co-Sponsors Bill To Block Trump's Transgender Military Ban
Updated September 18, 2017 7:49 AM | Filed under: Politics
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Sen. John S. McCain III is piped aboard during a visit to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) in Cam Ranh, Vietnam. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Mortensen)

(WASHINGTON) - Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has signed onto a new bill that would block efforts by President Donald Trump to discharge or prevent the re-enlistment of transgender persons currently serving in the armed forces.

Loree Lewis, of Talk Media News reports, the bill was introduced Friday by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the same duo who led the successful bipartisan effort to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 2010. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also signed onto the legislation.

"When less than one percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country," McCain said in a statement. "Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve -- including those who are transgender."

Last month, Trump signed a directive that would abandon plans to open the military to transgender recruits unless he is convinced otherwise, would halt the use of federal resources to fund sex reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel come March and ordered Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to decide the fate of currently serving transgender troops. Mattis has until Feb. 21 2018 to present a plan to the White House.

The Pentagon said Friday that transgender troops will be able to continue to serve until that plan is presented to the White House.

"Current transgender members will continue to serve throughout the military and continue to receive necessary medical treatment as prescribed by their medical provider," Pentagon spokesperson Col. Rob Manning told reporters Friday. "... Transgender services members whose term of service expires while the interim guidance is in effect may at the service member's request, re-enlist under existing procedures."

Manning said the plan will be developed by a panel led by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and include outside experts. He said the panel will develop a plan "consistent with military readiness, lethality, deployability and budgetary constraints and applicable law."

In June 2016, following a period of study, then Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that transgender persons in the military could serve openly. In the same announcement, Carter mandated that accessions of transgender troops would begin July 1. Mattis on the eve of the accession deadline delayed the opening of the ranks to transgender troops by six months while he studied the topic further.

McCain in the Friday statement said he will review the study commissioned on how the accession of transgender troops might affect the force when it is completed on or before Dec. 30. The new legislation would mandate that Mattis report the results of the study to Congress.

Sens. Gillibrand and Collins had initially introduced the legislation as an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but the legislation never made it to a floor vote because of disagreement over debate on the must-pass bill.

The transgender military ban has already sparked several legal challenges, including one filed Thursday by OutServe-SLDN, a network of LGBT military personnel, and civil rights litigators Lambda Legal.

Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, filed a court declaration on in support of a lawsuit. Under Mullen, the military rolled back it's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"The military's prior considered judgment on this matter should not be disregarded and we should not breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms, including those who are transgender," he said the the court declaration.

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