Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN to Ninth Circuit: Don’t breathe life into transgender military ban

PORTLAND – Lawyers in the lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN challenging the Trump Administration’s plan to ban transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Services today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to maintain the preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the discriminatory ban. Lawyers also asked the Ninth Circuit to reject efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal military documents regarding the ban and to refuse to produce even a log of documents withheld by the White House.

“Despite a string of court rulings blocking President Trump from imposing his discriminatory whims on the military, the government persists in pursuing every avenue to allow it to impose rank discrimination barring courageous and qualified transgender people from serving our country,” Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn said. “Courts across the country have swatted down implementation of this dangerous and discriminatory ban: There is no defensible reason to resurrect it now.”

Today’s argument before the Ninth Circuit follows four U.S. district court rulings and two federal appellate court rulings that issued or preserved preliminary injunctions against enforcement of the ban. Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN are also seeking access to documents regarding the ban and the plan to implement it ordered by President Trump.

“Today, like every day since those tweets of more than a year ago, I continue to do my duty, to serve my country with my fellow soldiers,” said U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Cathrine “Katie” Schmid. “These seemingly endless efforts to separate me from service will not deter me, and serve only to strengthen my resolve. I’m confident the Ninth Circuit, like every other court to rule, will see through this charade for what it is: a discriminatory policy that only hurts our military’s morale, cohesion, and readiness, and serves no other purpose.”

Today’s arguments were the latest stage in the lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, and joined by the state of Washington, challenging the ban.

Last December, the federal district court in Seattle issued an injunction barring the ban from being enforced during the litigation and requiring the military to honor the existing policy it adopted in 2016, 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. Because of the injunction, transgender people were able to enlist starting January 1.

“Our transgender siblings-in-arms have selflessly dedicated their lives to the country they love and they have proven to be vital in accomplishing the mission,” said Andy Blevins, incoming Executive Director of OutServe-SLDN. “The Trump-Pence administration’s continued attempts to undermine our transgender siblings’ right to serve is disgraceful. Blatant discriminatory actions at the hands of our nation’s largest employer of the LGBTQ community cannot be allowed to continue.”

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN represent nine individual plaintiffs and three organizational plaintiffs — the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Seattle-based Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partner Association (AMPA) – who joined the lawsuit on behalf of their transgender members harmed by the ban.

Last 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 (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). Then, in November, a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland granted a preliminary injunction in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. And, also this past December, a U.S. District Court judge in California granted a preliminary injunction in a case filed by Equality California, also joined by NCLR and GLAD. The D.C. and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals denied the Trump Administration’s efforts to secure stays on open enlistment.  The district courts in Washington, D.C. and California have also rejected efforts by the Trump Administration to dissolve the injunctions this year.

The lawsuit is Karnoski v. Trump. Read more about the case here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/karnoski-v-trump.

The Lambda Legal attorneys working on the case are: Peter Renn, Diana Flynn, Camilla B. Taylor, Tara Borelli, Paul Castillo, Sasha Buchert, and Kara Ingelhart. They are joined by co-counsel Peter Perkowski of OutServe-SLDN. Also on the legal team are pro-bono co-counsel at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Newman Du Wors LLP.

Quotes from Organizational Plaintiffs

“Our members in the Service only want to be able to serve their country,” said Elayne Wylie, Interim Executive Director, Gender Justice League. “We hope that the Ninth Circuit will do as every other court has done, and keep the ban on implementation in place.”

“From day one, the Trump-Pence transgender troop ban has been built on the petty and impulsive prejudice of this president,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “So far, every court has sided with the constitutional rights of transgender service members and enlistees, and we believe that the Ninth Circuit will continue to do so. We are grateful to Lambda Legal and Outserve-SLDN for their tireless efforts.”

“Time and time again, transgender service members have selflessly and valiantly proven their ability to accomplish the mission. To single these brave American heroes out for discrimination is a violation of the most fundamental principles we hold dear as a nation,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “We are hopeful that the court will see this blatant and unconstitutional discrimination for exactly what it is.”

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