Transgender troops: Sullivan says let them serve

Sen. Dan Sullivan and Gen. Robert Neller in 2016. (Photo: Ben Matheson, Anchorage)

The U.S. Senate passed an annual Defense bill Monday night that includes icebreakers and more missile interceptors, which Sen. Dan Sullivan championed. The bill does nothing to block President Trump’s effort to ban transgender people from the military, a ban Alaska Sullivan opposes.

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Sullivan told reporters just before the vote that he’s been talking to the sponsor of a stand-alone bill to block the transgender ban. Sullivan, a Marine reservist, said what’s important is the training standards for recruits.

“We shouldn’t care what your sexual orientation(s) are, or any other element of who you are,” Sullivan said. “If you’re patriotic and you want to serve your country and you meet those high standards, then I believe you should be able to serve.”

The defense bill senators passed would allow as many as six new icebreakers and up to 20 additional ground-based missile interceptors at Fort Greely. The bill, though, doesn’t guarantee funding. Sullivan did not predict the likelihood that money for the ships and interceptors would be included in the annual appropriation bill.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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