Susan Collins of Maine is the Republican half of a bipartisan pair of U.S. senators introducing an amendment to prevent the U.S. Department of Defense from removing service members from the military because of their gender identity.
Collins is working on the amendment with Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. They say their amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would protect transgender service members.
The senators say their amendment would require Secretary of Defense James Mattis to proceed with a report on military service by transgender people and provide findings to Congress. Collins says the U.S. should be "expressing our gratitude to them, not trying to exclude them from military service."
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President Donald Trump announced in July that the government wouldn't accept transgender people to service in the military.
"We want to serve, we're proud to serve," said Danielle Twomey, a transgender woman who served five years in the Air Force.
Twomey said it's a "big deal" for a Republican senator like Collins to break from the president and fight for transgender troops. But she calls the amendment "a start." Twomey wants to see those same protections applied to people trying to enlist.
"This is only applying to those that are in [the military]," she said. "So for me, it's sort of halfway there."