In a blow to the President Donald Trump, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has stopped him from banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
In July, Trump announced that he would ban transgender people from the military, reversing former President Barack Obama's policy.
The following month, the transgender service members sued to block the banwhich had not yet gone into effectand Kollar-Kotelly granted them an injunction halting enforcement of it until the case is resolved. The memo called on Secretary of Defense James Mattis to submit a plan to the president by Feb. 21 about implementing the changes, and the Pentagon has created a panel of officials for that purpose.
Pro-LGBTQ groups applauded the judge's decision. "This is a complete victory for our plaintiffs and all transgender service members, who are now once again able to serve on equal terms and without the threat of being discharged," said Shannon Minter, the National Center for Lesbian Rights' (NCLR) legal director, in a joint statement from NCLR and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. "We are grateful to the court for recognizing the gravity of these issues and putting a stop to this dangerous policy, which has wreaked havoc in the lives of transgender service members and their families."
GLAAD President/CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a separate statement that the "victory reflects what a majority of Americans have been saying: that transgender service members should be thanked and not relegated to second-class citizenship."
From press releases:
The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD )
Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and enjoined the transgender military ban, the discriminatory policy challenged in Doe v. Trump, the first case filed against President Trump's transgender military ban. The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD ), co-counsel in the case, issued the following statement:
"This is a complete victory for our plaintiffs and all transgender service members, who are now once again able to serve on equal terms and without the threat of being discharged," said Shannon Minter, NCLR's Legal Director. "We are grateful to the court for recognizing the gravity of these issues and putting a stop to this dangerous policy, which has wreaked havoc in the lives of transgender service members and their families."
"This court saw straight through the smokescreen the government tried to create to hide the bias and prejudice behind Trump's change in military policy. This clear, powerful ruling confirms that there is no legitimate reason to exclude transgender people from military service," said Jennifer Levi, Director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project. "Fighting discrimination isn't easy, and to all the transgender members of the armed forces or those looking to join, I want to say thank you for your courage, not only in fighting for our country, but in fighting for the constitutional values of equality and justice."
NCLR and GLAD have been at the center of the legal fight challenging Trump's military ban since filing Doe v. Trump, on August 9 on behalf of five transgender service members. On August 31, NCLR and GLAD filed a motion in Doe asking the court to immediately block the president's policy and adding two named plaintiffs who have had their plans for a career in military service thwarted by the ban - Regan Kibby, a Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy and Dylan Kohere, a first-year student at University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut denied participation in the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps ( ROTC ) program because of the ban. The two organizations are also co-counsel in a second suit challenging the ban, Stockman v. Trump, brought by Equality California.
Transgender Ban Injunction Sides with Military Readiness Over Politics
From the Palm Center
SAN FRANCISCO, CA Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin released the following statement after the federal court in Doe v. Trump, the first lawsuit challenging President Trump's transgender ban, enjoined the military enforcing the ban :
"President Trump's attempt to ban honorably serving transgender troops was a ham-handed effort to prioritize politics and outdated culture-war values over the constitution, military readiness and the weight of empirical evidence. Transgender troops have been serving openly in the U.S. military for more than a year, and have been widely praised by commanders. Today's court order should ensure that, at least for the time being, they can continue to focus on their jobs and protecting our country.
"Researchers at the RAND Corporation and elsewhere have consistently found that inclusive policy for transgender troops enhances military readiness, a point confirmed by the statement of 56 retired Generals and Admirals, the military's own study of the topic, and the real-world experiences of 18 foreign militaries. It is unprecedented in modern American history, and offensive to core military values, to welcome a group of citizens into the military, only to turn around and fire them just because some people don't like who they are. Federal courts play a crucial role in civilian oversight of the military, and in preventing the current White House from recklessly prioritizing politics and emotion over the well-being of the troops."
Federal District Court Blocks Trump's Transgender Military Ban
From the American Military Partner Association
WASHINGTON, DC Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation's largest organization of LGBT military spouses and their families, responded to a federal district court's decision in the case of Doe v. Trump blocking part of President Trump's transgender military ban. The judge states, "The effect of the Court's Order is to revert to the status quo with regard to accession and retention that existed before the issuance of the Presidential Memorandumthat is, the retention and accession policies established in the June 30, 2016 Directive-type Memorandum as modified by Secretary of Defense James Mattis on June 30, 2017." The full court order can be found here.
"This judge's decision to block President Trump's shameful transgender ban gives our military families hope that justice will ultimately prevail," said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. "More than a year ago, the Department of Defense assured transgender service members it was safe to come out, and it's unconscionable that President Trump is now targeting them for discrimination. Any qualified American who is willing to serve should be allowed to do so."
In June 2016, the Department of Defense told transgender members of the armed forces it was safe to come out and serve openly and authentically, and estimates show there are thousands of transgender individuals currently serving in the military. Implementation of the open service policy involved more than a year of planning.
Transgender service members had to wake up around the world to tweets from their new commander-in-chief shamefully declaring he was reversing the policy and transgender people would not be able to serve in "any capacity." In August, President Trump directed Secretary Mattis to implement the ban and gave him until February 21, 2018, to develop a plan. Secretary Mattis indicated in a statement that "(t)he department will carry out the president's policy direction."
The far majority of Americans disagree with the president and believe transgender people should be allowed to serve. There has been clear bipartisan outrage over the President's attack, including from fifty-six retired generals and admirals who warned that the ban would degrade military readiness.
AMPA is an organizational plaintiff in another lawsuit challenging Trump's transgender military ban in court. Karnoski v. Trump is brought by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN on behalf of several transgender individuals, AMPA, the Human Rights Campaign, and Gender Justice League.