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Pelosi to bring transgender service members to State of the Union

Pelosi invited two active-duty transgender Army members, Capt. Jennifer Peace and Maj. Ian Brown, to the president's annual address.
Capt. Jennifer Peace near her home in Spanaway, Washington, on Aug. 28, 2015. By one estimate, Peace is one of 15,000 transgender people who serve in the active-duty military.Drew Perine / The News Tribune via AP file

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Tuesday that she will bring two active-duty transgender members of the Army, Capt. Jennifer Peace and Maj. Ian Brown, to President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address.

Pelosi is among at least five Democratic lawmakers who have announced they will bring transgender service members or veterans to the annual address on Tuesday, a move widely seen as a rebuke of the president’s proposed ban on transgender people serving openly in the military.

“I think it’s important to raise visibility and get people to realize that by excluding trans service members, we are directly weakening our military and national security,” Peace told NBC News, noting that the military missed its recruiting goals last year by roughly 7,000 recruits.

“By saying we aren’t going to look at and recruit a segment of the population that’s more likely to serve in the military than the general population,” Peace added, “we are losing all that capability.”

According to a study based on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are twice as likely as the general population to have served in the military.

Peace said she hopes that the presence of so many trans veterans and active-duty service members in the House chamber will send a message to people across the country and break down stereotypes.

“Trans service members are currently serving in the military, we have been and we will continue to do so,” said Peace, who enlisted in 2005 and has completed two combat deployments.

While the exact number of transgender service members and veterans is unknown, a 2014 report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated there are 135,000 transgender military veterans and 15,000 active-duty transgender service members. A 2016 report from the RAND Corp., however, estimated there are 1,320 to 6,630 active-duty transgender service members.

Others Democrats who have invited a transgender service member or veteran to the State of the Union Address include Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Rep. Chris Pappas of New Hampshire; Rep. Jackie Speier California; and Rep. A. Donald McEachin of Virginia.

President Trump first announced his transgender military ban in a July 2017 tweet. In the social media post, Trump said he would end a policy, begun during the administration of President Barack Obama, that allows transgender men and women to serve openly.

The ban is the subject of several federal lawsuits, and only last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could allow the government to enforce the ban while challenges to the policy play out in the lower courts.