On Thursday, July 13, Minnesota Republican Reps. Jason Lewis, Erik Paulsen, and Tom Emmer voted on an amendment that would deny transition-related healthcare to military personnel. The vote ultimately failed.

The amendment was offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri. Minnesota’s DFL Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson, and Tim Walz voted against the amendment.

The amendment reads:

SEC. 704. PROHIBITION OF DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE MEDICAL
TREATMENT RELATED TO GENDER TRANSITION.

Funds available to the Department of Defense may not be
used to provide medical treatment (other than mental health
treatment) related to gender transition to a person entitled
to medical care under chapter 55 of title 10, United States
Code.

Prior to the vote, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling explained the harms that denying transition-related health care to transgender military members could cause:

“A year ago, when the Department of Defense announced that it was lifting the ban on transgender service members, it vowed the move would honor our military’s commitment to providing service members and their families with the health care they need. But, now, this needlessly cruel amendment threatens to deprive transgender service members of the basic right all service members enjoy, by prohibiting the military from providing them with care related to their transition. Military medical care should be decided by military doctors, not by members of Congress, based on prejudice and ideology.
Taking away life-saving care from our troops and their families doesn’t make our military any stronger. It doesn’t boost its readiness or morale. This amendment does nothing to help our military or our troops. In fact, it is dangerous, it is unconstitutional and it devalues the service of thousands of transgender people and their families. Moreover, it betrays a willful ignorance of the facts; from the decades-long medical consensus that transition-related treatments are just as necessary as care for any other medical condition, to the extensive research the military and Defense Department themselves conducted before concluding that transgender service members should get access to health care just like any other service members.

The Minnesota Family Council, an organization that opposes policies supportive of LGBTQ people, praised Emmer, Paulsen, and Lewis in an email last week:

Thursday of this week, these three Congressmen cast votes supporting the Hartzler Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment would have prevented taxpayer dollars from being used to fund sex reassignment surgery and hormone drugs intended to change a service member’s gender.
The surgery is unnecessary, and perhaps even harmful, to military members’ health and well-being and therefore should not be taxpayer funded, particularly when the military could be using taxpayer funds for much needed equipment and for other important provisions for our military troops.
Ultimately, the amendment failed to pass (209-214), but we are grateful to these Congressmen for taking a stand on this important issue!

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Andy Birkey
Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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