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Online Extra: Gays Across America: CA's Speier, Davis among lawmakers behind bipartisan bill

by by Seth Hemmelgarn

California Democratic Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Susan Davis are among the lawmakers who have introduced HR 4041, a bipartisan bill that would prevent the Department of Defense from removing transgender service members from the armed forces based only on their gender identity.

The legislation, introduced Friday, October 13, is a companion bill to S 1820, introduced in the Senate in September. Trans troops have been able to openly serve since June 2016.

Among other provisions, HR 4041 would block the Defense Department from keeping trans members from re-enlisting or continuing their service in the armed forces. It would also require Defense Secretary James Mattis to finish his assessment of trans military service by the end of the year and make a report to Congress.

"Kicking out members of the United States Armed Services solely based on their gender identity is hateful, discriminatory, and on the wrong side of history," Speier said in a news release. "News flash, Mr. President - thousands of transgender troops already serve our country with pride and dignity. Our military should be focused on recruiting and retaining the best troops, not on rejecting qualified service members on the basis of discrimination."

Davis stated, "I stood proudly with the previous administration when we lifted the ban on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Many of the arguments against transgender service members are the same we have heard for gay service members, and the same we heard for women before that. Transgender service members have and are serving with honor, distinction, and courage. No evidence has been presented to warrant a ban, which is based solely on discrimination."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has also been taking action against the trans military ban.

Thursday, October 12, Becerra signed onto an amicus brief supporting trans rights for veterans in Fulcher v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, which is at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The brief defends veterans' right to health care for sex reassignment surgery and other medically necessary care. California law doesn't allow private insurers to discriminate.

"It is unacceptable for the federal government to discriminate against our transgender veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, by denying them coverage for necessary medical care," Becerra said in a news release. "In California, we make sure medically necessary care is covered because no veteran should be unable to receive care their physician says is critical. Across the country, the least we can do for veterans is provide the health coverage they need."

According to Becerra's office, "This is the first time an appellate court will address transgender rights to health care outside of the prison context."

The attorneys general of Washington, Oregon, and other states are also part of the brief.

Amended complaint filed against San Diego hospital in trans case
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Transgender Law Center filed an amended complaint Thursday in a lawsuit involving a San Diego hospital they claim discriminated against a trans boy.

The filing comes after U.S. District Court for Southern California ruled in late September that the national Affordable Care Act's prohibition of sex discrimination applies to trans kids.

In April 2015, Katharine Prescott took her son, Kyler Prescott, 14, to Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego for suicidal ideation and treatment of self-inflicted injuries.

According to the lawsuit, the hospital knew Kyler was trans, and Prescott made it clear to staff that they needed to treat Kyler as male. However, hospital workers repeatedly referred to Kyler as a girl, even though he'd had his gender markers legally changed. One day into what was supposed to be a three-day stay, the hospital's psychiatrist decided to discharge Kyler, who killed himself about five weeks later, the lawsuit says.

"When my son was in despair, I entrusted Rady Children's Hospital with his safety and well-being," Katharine Prescott said in a news release from NCLR. "... Instead of recovering at the hospital, Kyler got worse because staff continued to traumatize him by repeatedly treating him as a girl and ignoring his serious health issues. It's painful to speak out, but I want to make sure no other parent or child ever has to go through this again."

Amy Whelan, NCLR's senior staff attorney, stated, "The court's decision affirms the growing body of cases across the country recognizing that discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination. We will continue to fight for transgender kids and adults regardless of the U.S. Department of Justice's reckless and legally indefensible abandonment of LGBT people."

TLC Executive Director Kris Hayashi added, "Hospitals should be safe places for transgender children and anyone in crisis to seek help and care. Medical providers must understand the great harms they can inflict if they discriminate against trans youth."

Hospital spokesman Ben Metcalf declined to comment on the lawsuit since it's pending.

Gays Across America is a column addressing LGBTQ issues nationwide. It runs most Tuesdays. The next column will be up Tuesday, October 31. Please submit comments or column ideas to Seth Hemmelgarn at (415) 875-9986 or .


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