Transgender Soldiers to Attend Tonight’s State of the Union as Special GuestsBy Shane Stahl • January 30, 2018 • 10:08 am
At President Trump’s first State of the Union address tonight, January 30, two transgender members of the military will be in attendance as special guests of legislators, standing as the faces of those affected by the President’s attempted ban on transgender soldiers serving in the armed forces.
Representative Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts will be accompanied by Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King, while Representative Jared Huffman will be accompanied by Marine Corps veteran and Fort Bragg resident Lynda Bengtsson-Davis.
“As President Trump delivers his first State of the Union address, my message to him, to my constituents, and to America as whole is going to be: Love trumps hate,” said Rep. Huffman.
Kennedy has stated he is bringing Sgt. King to remind the President of transgender troops’ devotion to military service. “I want her to be there as a real person, and the face of an inhumane policy,” Kennedy said. Later in the evening, Kennedy will also deliver the Democratic response to the President’s speech.
Congressman Kennedy has been a vocal supporter of transgender equality in recent years, including testifying in favor of a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and expression in places of public accommodation in Massachusetts, his home state. He also filmed and published a video in support of transgender dignity as part of the #EveryoneWelcome campaign, coordinated by a coalition that included Freedom for All Americans.
Sgt. King has served in the Army for almost 19 years, and has stated she realized she was transgender while serving. “Every one of us who raises our right hand is prepared to give everything in the defense of our country,” King said.
Bengtsson-Davis served in the Marine Corp for over a decade, and is now looking to re-enlist in the Air National Guard. In a statement, she said:
“When the President came out with this transgender ban, it sort of blew me away. My personal feeling was that someone who never served a day in his life, whether in the military or public service, had the audacity to discredit my service and the service and sacrifice being made by a specific population of the American people was unbelievable.”
President Trump issued a series of tweets declaring his intent to ban transgender military service in July, and signed an executive order enforcing this in August, causing multiple appeals to immediately be filed. Currently, the courts have issued a stay on the President’s attempted ban, and since January 1, transgender troops have been able to enlist in the armed forces.
The State of the Union is scheduled for 9:00 PM this evening.