Washington, DC – Due to the recent spate of legislation passed and signed into law in Florida, SPARTA has taken the unprecedented step of cautioning military members who are themselves transgender or who have family members who are transgender against serving in the state of Florida where possible.
SPARTA has withheld such recommendations previously, recognizing servicemembers can fulfill their duties anywhere in the world. They have done so proudly for over two hundred years and continue to do so in duty stations worldwide and ships sailing all the world’s oceans.
However, here at home, the State of Florida has created circumstances that pose legal challenges and hazards to our nation’s military members, even while they defend our nation’s freedoms. These challenges and hazards include:
HB 1521 – Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill: This law places transgender servicemembers in legal jeopardy. Military personnel who have transitioned and updated their personnel files to reflect their factual and legal gender must use bathroom facilities that match that gender or face penalties under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Those same servicemembers are now faced with potential arrest in the State of Florida if they do not instead use the bathroom that matches the gender they were assigned at birth. There are also concerns for individuals’ safety, as they may be at greater risk of assault for ‘using the wrong bathroom.’
SB 254 – Extreme Gender Affirming Care Ban: This law penalizes medical providers who provide gender-affirming care, to include potential felony charges. It authorizes the state to cancel the licenses of any provider found to provide gender-affirming care. It also prohibits any public funds from being used for gender-affirming care. At its most extreme, it allows the State of Florida exceptional jurisdiction to remove minors from a home if there is any suspicion that the child may be “at risk” of receiving such gender-affirming care, such as if the child is transgender or a parent is transgender. This can occur even contrary to another state’s custody arrangements. Therefore, any transgender servicemember with children or any servicemember’s family with a transgender child will serve at the risk of losing custody of their children and denial of their healthcare.
SB 1580 – “Protections of Medical Conscience”: This law allows healthcare providers to deny patient care based exclusively on their religious, moral, or ethical beliefs. While thankfully, this does not apply to emergency treatment, it allows for a broad swath of situations where staff at medical facilities may refuse to participate in the care of a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This is particularly worrisome to our servicemembers and their families as many receive healthcare away from “military treatment facilities.” These servicemembers and their families were promised healthcare by Congress and their nation as part of their compensation for serving. They are often referred to healthcare facilities in neighboring communities, where this law will now jeopardize their healthcare.
SPARTA’s Director of Advocacy, Alleria Stanley, responding to these laws, stated, “Our nation’s servicemembers serve to defend our freedoms for all Americans. They defend our Constitutional rights in duty stations close to home in the United States, abroad in other countries, and at sea aboard our naval ships. We fight and train expecting to defend those freedoms from threats abroad, not here at home. It is unconscionable for our military personnel to fear that their next duty station may place their family members or themselves at direct risk of harm, further, for those who are currently serving in Florida and are now debating plans to send their families to safety while continuing their service and their commitment to this nation. These laws distract our military from their mission.
LGBTQ servicemembers have a long and proud tradition of serving this nation whether their nation’s military accepted their service openly or not. Their commitment and integrity are unquestioned. They all serve recognizing that they may do so under threat to their life and liberty; it is despicable that the threat is here at home.”
With this Duty Assignment Warning, SPARTA advises LGBTQ+ servicemembers and servicemembers with LGBTQ+ family members to contact their command channels and personnel services to utilize branch-specific methods for potential reassignment, whether temporary or permanent. Those currently stationed in Florida may also exercise the same options. Unsuccessful personnel are reminded that they may pursue their requests to the highest levels of their chain of command and their representatives in Congress.
Finally, SPARTA urges senior leaders across the military branches to develop immediate and emergency plans to protect affected military servicemembers and their families.
SPARTA is a group of transgender people currently serving or has served in the military. SPARTA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization not affiliated with the Department of Defense. Membership is open to transgender (to include non-binary and gender-nonconforming) individuals currently serving in the United States uniformed services – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Corps, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps.