House Advances Effort to Overturn Pentagon Restrictions on Transgender Service

In this Feb. 27, 2019, file photo, from left, transgender military members Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik, Army Capt. Jennifer Peace, Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King and Navy Petty Officer Third Class Akira Wyatt, listen before the start of a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
In this Feb. 27, 2019, file photo, from left, transgender military members Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik, Army Capt. Jennifer Peace, Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King and Navy Petty Officer Third Class Akira Wyatt, listen before the start of a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The House approved an amendment Thursday to the defense policy bill that would allow transgender individuals to serve openly again in the U.S. military.

The measure, sponsored by House Armed Services personnel subcommittee chair Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, was inserted into the House's version of the National Defense Authorization bill, which the chamber is expected to vote on Friday.

Ten Republicans joined Speier and 241 other Democrats to support the amendment, which would allow those who meet gender-neutral military standards to serve, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Courageous transgender service members continue to fight for our country despite the president's hateful ban and deserve to know we stand with them," Speier said in arguing for the provision. "Our country has a shameful history of preventing people from serving based on bias, ignorance and malice."

Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, said she objects to it because it seems to let anyone serve if they meet military standards without taking into account any medical conditions now considered incompatible with military service.

Related: The 9,000 Transgender Troops in the Military Will Still Continue to Serve, Officials Say

Noting that the Defense Department changed the rule to bar potential recruits or troops with gender dysphoria -- the diagnosis for those who suffer anxiety or mental health issues as a result of the gender they were born with -- Hartzler said the "military is under no obligation to accept individuals who do not meet the medical criteria for service."

"Military service is a privilege. It is not a right. It would be unwise for us to make exceptions to service for one specific entity who could not meet medical standards," she said.

A policy went into effect earlier this year that bars persons or troops with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria from serving. Under the policy, those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who have initiated treatment or swapped genders are no longer able to join the U.S. military, in most cases.

The fate of the House defense policy remains to be seen, with some progressive Democrats voicing their objections to the bill and Republicans universally opposing it. But with the Democrats' large majority, it is expected to pass.

The Senate has approved its own version of the legislation, but it contains few of the personnel policy provisions contained in the House version, including the transgender service measure; an effort to end the penalty military survivors pay when receiving posthumous checks from the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments; and a provision that would allow the families of service members injured as a result of medical malpractice to sue the federal government.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

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