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Gillibrand invites transgender Navy officer to State of the Union address

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., at a hearing on Capitol Hill, June 19, 2018.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARK WEINER | Syracuse (N.Y.) Media Group | Published: February 4, 2019

WASHNGTON (Tribune News Service) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has invited a transgender U.S. Navy officer to be her guest at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she has been inspired by the service of Lt. Commander Blake Dremann, who has been deployed overseas 11 times and has received the Navy’s highest logistics award.

Dremann is president of SPARTA, an LGBT military advocacy organization that advocates for transgender military members.

Gillibrand wants to draw attention to transgender servicemembers after the U.S. Supreme Court last month granted a request from President Donald Trump’s administration to ban most transgender people from serving in the military.

Gillibrand plans to reintroduce legislation this week to protect transgender members of the Armed Forces. She said there is no reason people like Dremann should be prevented from serving.

“Transgender service members like Lt. Commander Dremann make extraordinary sacrifices every day to defend our freedom and our most sacred values, and President Trump’s decision to ban them from military service is cruel and undermines our military readiness,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

She added, “The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have testified to Congress that transgender service members are serving in our military without any problems.”

Each member of Congress is permitted to bring one guest to the State of the Union address.

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., has invited Randi Bregman, executive director of Vera House in Syracuse, an organization that fights domestic and sexual violence and runs a shelter in central New York.

Katko wants to draw attention to the failure of Congress to pass a long-term bill funding the Violence Against Women Act, which helps fund organizations like Vera House. A temporary funding bill is due to expire Feb. 15.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., has invited an Air Force veteran from New Hartford to attend as his guest.

Lt. Col. John A. Jones, is a 25-year veteran of the Air Force and the Air National Guard. He is a former chief of staff of the New York wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate minority leader, has given his guest ticket to a Transportation Security Administration agent from Long Island. The agent’s name was not immediately available Monday. TSA agents were among federal employees who were required to work without pay during the record 35-day government shutdown.

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