Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III (Mass.) has invited Staff Sergeant Patricia King, a transgender soldier, as his guest to President Trump’s first State of the Union in protest of Trump’s attempt to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, according to the Boston Globe.
Staff Sgt. King, who has been deployed to Afghanistan three times, told the Globe that she realized she was a transgender woman at the end of her last deployment in 2013 and soon came out to her family.
Trump announced last year that he was banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. However, courts have since blocked his ban and have allowed transgender people to enlist starting Jan. 1.
“I have served for almost 19 years,” King told the Globe. “And all of a sudden, it is all hanging in the balance.”
King also revealed that she was the first service member to have her gender reassignment surgery paid for by the military.
“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,” she said. “Every one of us who raises our right hand is prepared to give everything in the defense of our country.”
Kennedy, who will deliver the Democratic Party’s response to Trump’s SOTU address, told the Globe that he invited King to remind the president of transgender troops’ dedication to the U.S.
“I want her to be there as a real person, and the face of an inhumane policy,” said Kennedy, who is also the chairman of the Transgender Equality Task Force in Congress.
“We will fight back against a Justice and an Education Department that turns a blind eye to discrimination in our schools,” he said, referencing the Trump’s recent rollback of protections for transgender students in schools.
“We’ll fight back against a health care system that treats transgender Americans as second-class citizens. We’ll fight back against our own colleagues, members of Congress that try to undermine religious liberty in this country by using it to support state-sanctioned discrimination,” the congressman continued. “And we’ll fight back against a scourge of hate-based and hate-inspired violence that plagues the transgender community every single day, particularly transgender women of color.”
“A threat to any civil right is a threat to all civil rights,” Kennedy said before reading the names of Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Mesha Caldwell, JoJo Striker, Tiara Richmond, Chyna Doll Dupree, Ciara McElveen and Jaquarrius Holland — the transgender women whom he said have “lost their lives to violence so far this year alone.”
“This country owes them better … and this task force will fight every day to deliver better.” he argued.
Trump will deliver his first State of the Union on Tuesday night.