Democratic congressman Joe Kennedy will bring a transgender soldier as his guest to Trump’s State of the Union this week.
The up-and-coming US congressman, aged just 37, has been picked to deliver the rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address this week, raising him to national prominence.
A strong LGBT ally who serves as Chair of the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force, Rep. Kennedy will use his prominent role to challenge the President’s anti-LGBT actions.
To underline his point, the lawmaker has invited a transgender soldier, Staff Sgt. Patricia King, to be his guest to the State of the Union address, which is set to take place on Tuesday evening.
Staff Sgt. King, a veteran of 19 years, has spoken out against Trump’s hastily-implemented ban on transgender troops, which was announced last summer with no consultation with military chiefs.
Speaking to the Boston Globe, Kennedy hinted that he will mention her in his speech before the nation.
He said: “I want her to be there as a real person, and the face of an inhumane policy.
“I don’t believe that [the ban] is reflective of our country at its best, or of the values Americans hold.”
Staff Sgt. King added: I have served for almost 19 years.. and all of a sudden, it is all hanging in the balance.
“There are much easier ways to get surgery covered than enlisting in the military, [facing] the possibility of deployment, and dealing with the stigma of being a transgender service member.
“Every one of us who raises our right hand is prepared to give everything in the defense of our country.”
Rep. Kennedy was last year chosen as chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force in Congress.
He said at the time: “From education to health care to public safety: transgender Americans are told near daily that their rights count as less.
“In a country built on the promise of equal protection, this is unacceptable. Facing new threats from a new Administration and discriminatory policies rearing their heads across the country, this Task Force is united in its unwavering support for the transgender community, grateful for the partnership of our allies and friends, and energized for the fight ahead.”
There will be a long path ahead.
There are currently no federal anti-discrimination protections for transgender people in the United States, with Republicans in Congress repeatedly blocking attempts to pass LGBT non-discrimination legislation under Obama.
The right to change name and legal gender varies from state to state, and in some states trans people have to go to court to get their real self recognised.
“Members of the LGBT community have the same rights and deserve the same opportunities as any other American; and despite the Trump Administration’s recent attack against transgender students, we will fight to guarantee they have the chance to learn and thrive,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05). “While we have made substantial progress for transgender equality over the past few years, it is very clear that more work remains to ensure our differences are celebrated and respected, not discriminated against. Together with my colleagues on the Transgender Task Force, we will continue our work to promote safe and secure spaces where all Americans are free to be themselves.”
“I was proud to stand with the LGBT Equality Caucus as it relaunched the Transgender Equality Task Force, and I congratulate Rep. Kennedy, who has been an extraordinary advocate for LGBT Americans, on being named as its chair,” said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. “The Transgender Equality Task Force has played a critical role in working to ensure transgender Americans are treated equally and with dignity and respect.
“While President Trump has broken his promise to LGBT Americans that he would keep in place non-discrimination protections and sent a terrible message to transgender youth, we came together to tell those Americans: we are with you. I thank the Transgender Equality Task Force for its work on behalf of transgender Americans, and I will continue to stand with them to protect the rights and dignity of all LGBT Americans.”
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“Transgender people and their loved ones are feeling tremendous uncertainty—students are worried about whether they will be singled out at school, and families are worried about what will happen to their health care,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The members of the Transgender Equality Task Force know that it is our values of equality and fairness that make us great, and we will work with them to defend those values at the federal, state, and local levels.”
“The re-launch of the Transgender Equality Task Force comes at a critical time,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02). “While the Trump administration has previously said they will support, or even ‘fight’ for the LGBTQ community, once again their words are contrary to their actions. This task force will focus on protecting the advancements we’ve made over the years, hold this administration accountable, and continue to vigorously and pro-actively advocate for LGBTQ right.”
“Our children and our teachers understand the importance of respect and fair treatment for everyone,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02). “Unfortunately, the President and extremists’ voices on the right still don’t understand this simple idea. The Transgender Task Force will be a critical voice in standing up against discrimination and fighting for transgender and nonconforming people. We will not allow progress to be stopped.”
“Although 2016 was the trans tipping point, there’s a long way to go – seven transgender women of color have already been murdered in 2017,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18). “I want to thank Rep. Kennedy for taking the wheel to ensure that we always prioritize the needs of transgender Americans and continue the fight for full equality while also protecting the achievements our movement has made.”
“The re-launch of the Transgender Equality Task Force could not come at a more important time,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “Amidst rising violence against trans women of color and the disgraceful decision by the Trump Administration to undermine vital protections, we need to send a clear message to transgender people across this country that they matter and that there millions of people – including many walking the halls of Congress – who are fighting every day to ensure that they are treated with the dignity and fairness that every person deserves. We thank the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, the Trans Equality Task Force, and Congressman Kennedy for their unwavering commitment to trans equality.”
“I am proud to once again stand arm and arm with my colleagues to relaunch the House Transgender Equality Taskforce to support our transgender community in every way we can,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL). “From the shameful decision by the White House to rescind guidance applying Title IX’s sex nondiscrimination provisions to transgender students, to the increasing rate of hate violence toward transgender Americans, the transgender community needs our full support now more than ever in the Congress and the country alike.”
“If education is a civil right as the President said to loud applause during his Joint Session of Congress address on Tuesday, how can he ignore the civil rights of transgender students?” said Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14). “This is why it’s more important now, than ever, that Congress stands with our transgender community and why I’m so proud to be a part of the re-launch of the Transgender Equality Task Force.”
“Four transgender women of color were murdered in the last 10 days, making it a total of 7 transgender women – 6 African American and 1 Native American – who have been killed just two months into 2017,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3).
“This pace puts us on track to greatly exceed the 23 murders reported in 2016, which was the deadliest year on record for the transgender community. This spike comes at a time when intolerant rhetoric is clearly on the rise in our society and the administration has rolled back guidance for schools to properly accommodate transgender students. Words have consequences, and when leaders embrace hateful speech, the repercussions can be drastic for the American people. My condolences to go out to the families of Ciara McElveen, Chyna Gibson, Jaquarrius Holland, and Tiara Richmond who have lost their loved ones to such senseless acts of violence. This intolerance must stop.”