Court once again orders U.S. Military to halt ban of Transgender troops

Military Troops photo courtesy of Palm Center
Military Troops photo courtesy of Palm Center

This week a federal court in Seattle ordered an immediate halt to the discriminatory plan to ban transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Services. The ruling came in the lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN challenging the ban and prevents the ban from being implemented while the case proceeds.

“There is no valid reason to deny transgender people the right to serve their country. The court heard that argument, and agreed,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said. “Before the President’s vicious attack on transgender Americans, transgender service members had been serving openly and proudly in every branch of the U.S. Military. Today’s ruling allows them to continue to do the job of defending our country while the case continues. With yet another court ruling that the President has engaged in unlawful discrimination, the policy’s days are clearly numbered, and its final demise can’t come fast enough for those whose military careers hang in the balance.”

The ruling came in response to a Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN lawsuit filed in September in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The motion asked the Court to preliminarily enjoin the government from taking actions inconsistent with the military policy that existed prior to July 26, 2017, under which transgender service members were allowed to serve openly, and transgender Americans seeking to join the military had a path forward for doing so.

“Today’s preliminary injunction is a victory in the fight against Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s cruel and animus-fueled policy,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “Allowing this discriminatory ban to take effect would cause serious harm to our national defense and to the thousands of transgender people serving and wishing to serve their country. We thank Lambda Legal and Outserve-SLDN for representing us in this landmark case, and we are grateful that Judge Pechman has ruled against discrimination.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration filed a motion to stay part of another court’s injunction in the American Civil Liberties Union’s case, Stone v. Trump, which prohibited the government from implementing President Trump’s unconstitutional ban on transgender people serving in the military. Under the current order, the government must allow new transgender service members to enlist beginning on January 1, 2018.

Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said, “Three courts have now held that President Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the military is blatantly unconstitutional, but the Pentagon continues to drag its heels and try to implement Trump’s discriminatory ban.”

“I’m incredibly relieved to know that I can continue to do my job and serve our nation without the additional stress of worrying that I could be discharged as soon as next March,” Staff Sergeant Cathrine Schmid said. “Being transgender has no impact on my ability to perform my duties, and I’m grateful that I will be able to continue to serve the people of the United States as this case moves through the courts.”

“The President’s ‘guidance’ to remove transgender service members from the United States armed forces and deny them healthcare was nothing less than the initiation of a purge,” OutServe-SLDN Legal Director Peter Perkowski said. “This court has recognized the President’s action for what it is — a discriminatory attack on the people who have volunteered their lives for the defense of the country. Qualified and dedicated individuals serve our country each and every day in the armed services and thousands happen to be transgender. An individual’s gender identity is not a valid reason to deny them the right to serve their country in uniform; a fact even the Pentagon has affirmed.”

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN represent nine individual plaintiffs and three organizational plaintiffs in their case. The individual plaintiffs, all of whom are transgender, included:

Staff Sergeant Cathrine (“Katie”) Schmid, a 33-year-old woman and 12-year member of the U.S. Army currently serving in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, who has applied to become an Army Warrant Officer; Petty Officer Terece Lewis, a 33-year-old woman and 14-year member of the U.S. Navy serving on the U.S.S. John C. Stennis out of Bremerton, Washington; Chief Warrant Officer Lindsey Muller, a 35-year-old woman and 17-year member of the U.S. Army serving at Camp Humphreys near Seoul, South Korea;
Petty Officer Second Class Phillip Stephens, a 30-year-old man and five-year member of the U.S. Navy serving at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso, Florida; Petty Officer Second Class Megan Winters, a 29-year-old woman and five-year member of the U.S. Navy serving in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C.; Ryan Karnoski, a 23-year-old Seattle man who currently works as a social worker and wishes to become an officer doing social work for the military; Conner Callahan, a 29-year-old man who currently works in law enforcement in North Carolina; Drew Layne, a recent high-school graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas, who is 17 years old and, with parental support, wants to join the Air Force; and A ninth individual currently serving in the military who remains anonymous.

The organizational plaintiffs are the Human Rights Campaign, Seattle-based Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partner Association.

In October, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., granted a preliminary injunction in a similar lawsuit challenging the transgender military service ban filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defendersas well as the U.S. District Court judge in Maryland who granted a preliminary injunction in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.