Discriminatory Ban Already Harming Trans Troops & Military, Lambda Legal & OutServe-SLDN Tell Court

LGBT Legal Rights Organizations Ask Federal Court to Halt Immediately All Efforts to Implement Dangerous and Discriminatory Ban

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN today asked a federal court to halt immediately all steps taken to implement the Trump Administration’s discriminatory plan to ban transgender individuals from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Services.

“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 for more than a year,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said. “Since the President’s tweets, and his mandate for the Pentagon to implement his ban, those same service members have been branded as unfit to serve – to do the jobs they have been doing successfully – simply because they are transgender. That harm is real, it is palpable, and it is discriminatory.”

“It is unacceptable to destroy the careers of patriotic and courageous members of the U.S. military,” said Peter Perkowski, Legal Director for OutServe-SLDN. “This ban must be stopped dead in its tracks before it goes any further so that these brave men and women can focus on their real jobs – protecting and serving the country they love.”

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed a motion for preliminary injunction on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The motion asks 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.

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN are now representing nine individual plaintiffs, all of whom are transgender, and three organizational plaintiffs – the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Seattle-based Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partner Association (AMPA).

The individual plaintiffs include six current service members and three individuals who wish to enlist. The current service members are: 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; Lindsey Muller, a 35-year-old woman and seventeen-year member of the U.S. Army serving in Seoul, South Korea; Phillip Stephens, a 29-year-old man and five-year member of the U.S. Navy serving at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso, Florida; 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.; and a sixth individual who remains anonymous. The three plaintiffs who seek to join the military are: Ryan Karnoski, a 22-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; and Drew Layne, a high-school student from Corpus Christi, Texas, who is 17 years old and, with parental support, wants to join the Air Force.

“It is impossible to overstate how important it was when the Pentagon lifted the ban on open service, when I and other transgender service members were finally able to live and serve as our true and authentic selves,” Phillip Stephens said. “To read those tweets, to have the rug pulled out from under us, to be branded unfit to serve was devastating, not just for me, but really for the U.S. Military and military readiness as a whole.”

Background

On July 26, President Trump posted a series of tweets in the early morning hours announcing that, “The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” The tweeted ban was swiftly and widely condemned by more than 56 retired generals and admirals and a large percentage of Republican and Democratic U.S. senators and representatives.

Despite that criticism, the White House proceeded to issue a memorandum directing the military to continue the ban on enlistment by those they learn are transgender, even though our armed forces currently are facing recruitment challenges, including in high demand positions like linguists, health care providers, social workers and aviators. The enlistment ban also bars transgender members of the military currently serving openly, such as Staff Sergeant Schmid, from obtaining appointments as officers.

The memorandum further orders the return to past anti-transgender policies affecting continued service and medical care of those known to be transgender after the development of an implementation plan by the Secretary of Defense. The Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN lawsuit against President Trump, the United States of America, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the U.S. Department of Defense is based on the Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, due process and free speech for all.

The government-commissioned RAND study released in May 2016 determined that the cost of providing transition-related care is exceedingly small relative to U.S. Armed Forces overall health care expenditures, that there are no readiness implications that prevent transgender members from serving openly, and that numerous foreign militaries have successfully permitted open service without a negative effect on effectiveness, readiness, or unit cohesion. Based on that study, the Pentagon lifted the ban on open service by transgender men and women in July 2016.

The lawsuit is Karnoski v. Trump. Read a copy of the Motion for Preliminary Injunction here. Read more about the case here.

The Lambda Legal attorneys working on the case are: Peter Renn, Jon W. Davidson, Camilla B. Taylor, Tara Borelli, Natalie Nardecchia, Sasha Buchert, Kara Ingelhart, and Carl Charles. 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.

Statements from Organizational Plaintiffs

“The thousands of transgender troops currently serving their country deserve immediate clarity and protection from the discriminatory whims of this president,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “No service member should be forced to fear for their future for one more day due to Donald Trump’s unconstitutional order. We hope the court will recognize the urgency and severity of the situation and ensure that the promise made to these service members – that if they are willing and able to serve, they will be allowed to do so – is protected.”

AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack said: “After the Defense Department assured transgender service members it was safe to come out and serve openly, President Trump is now singling them out for blatant discrimination. This shameful assault threatens the service member and his or her entire military family. As the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families, we are proud to be represented by Lambda Legal and Outserve-SLDN in our lawsuit challenging this unpatriotic and shameful transgender military ban. Any qualified American, regardless of their gender identity, should be able to serve their country.”

“We know from our members about the fear and uncertainty created first by President Trump’s tweets and now the memo,” said Danni Askini, Executive Director, Gender Justice League. “Current transgender service members and those wanting to enlist are now in a constant state of limbo as the result of a hateful and counterproductive policy. We are hopeful the courts will uphold their duty to our ideals and halt this policy by granting the requested injunction.”

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HRC Arizona Donates Emergency Aid to LGBTQ Center Burned Down in Phoenix

Post submitted by Brandie Reiner, Co-Chair and Board of Governors, Arizona Human Rights Campaign

HRC Arizona was saddened to hear of the devastating fire at one•n•ten, an LGBTQ youth center, on July 12. We are pleased to donate $10,000 in emergency aid to assist with building costs for their new youth facility. With recent rallies, protests and counter protests influenced by the Trump Administration’s attacks on full diversity in our community, HRC Arizona is committed to advancing our work with youth and empowering them to advocate for LGBTQ equality statewide. 

The funds will assist one•n•ten in providing emergency operating costs to recreate a home for the youth and young adults ages 14-24 years old who utilized the center. One•n•ten is a Phoenix-based non-profit that works to enhance the lives of LGBTQ youth by providing empowering programs focused on promoting self-expression, self-acceptance, leadership development and healthy life choices. Additionally, they provide essential services and resources to homeless LGBTQ youth. 

“As a One•n•ten youth leader and HRC youth Ambassador, I’m always so thrilled when organizations can work together to make a change,” said Justin Jones (pictured above, front row, first on the right). “After the fire, [at one•n•ten] I was devastated. I felt that I lost my home and my place of comfort. But we are strong and resilient. We have a new center opening soon thanks to organizations like HRC, we can continue to help LGBTQ youth with the services they need to thrive.”

Many of the youth that utilize resources from one•n•ten have been kicked out of their homes because they’re LGBTQ. In far too many areas across the country, LGBTQ youth lack access to food, shelter, health services that are imperative to their sexual health and well-being. 

It is important, now more than ever, that we take a stand to combat these continued attacks on our most basic fundamental values. HRC launched HRC Rising, the largest grassroots expansion in its history that will include significant investments in Arizona ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Join the movement at hrc.org/resist and ensure your voice is heard.

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HRC Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings Explains How the Tobacco Industry Targets the LGBTQ Community

Transgender rights activist and HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings appears in a new video to share a disturbing example of how the tobacco industry takes aim at the LGBTQ community.

“A tobacco company once planned to increase cigarette sales by targeting the gay community. They even called their plan Project SCUM,” says 16-year-old Jennings in the video for truth®, a youth tobacco prevention campaign.

For years the tobacco industry has made efforts to appeal to LGBTQ consumers through strategies such as targeted advertisements in LGBTQ press, event sponsorships, cigarette giveaways and free tobacco industry merchandise. They have also included LGBTQ pride themes in their advertisements and sponsored pride events to promote their products.

While the youth smoking rate is at a historic low of six percent, the LGBTQ community uses tobacco at much higher rates.

HRC’s “Preventing Substance Abuse among LGBTQ Teens” issue brief found that LGBTQ youth experiment with alcohol and other drugs occurs at twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ counterparts. HRC’s “Health Disparities among Bisexual People” issue brief also noted that bisexual adults have elevated rates of smoking and alcohol use compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

Additionally, research found that LGBTQ adults smoke at rates up to two and a half times higher than straight adults. LGB high schoolers are more than twice as likely to have smoked a cigarette before the age of 13, and about one in three transgender young adults smokes.

“We hear that smoking rates are lower, but what we don’t hear is that they are not lower across all these different communities,” said Director of HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program Ellen Kahn at Truth Initiative’s 2017 Warner Series discussion. “The LGBTQ community needs to be educated about how they have been targeted.”

Jennings’ activism began at age six when she appeared on 20/20 with Barbara Walters. Now 16, she is stars in TLC’s GLAAD Award-winning docu-series, “I am Jazz” and is one of America’s most well-known transgender youth. Jazz is the co-author of the book, I am Jazz, and released her memoir, Being Jazz, in 2016.

Click here to learn more about how the tobacco industry profiles the LGBTQ community.

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Safe is Not Enough: A Resource for Educators

Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Consultant

For caring teachers who want to support their LGBTQ students and families, there are many resources at their disposal. One book to add to your professional development reading list is Safe is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students, by Michael Sadowski. HRC is honored to have its Welcoming Schools program highlighted in Sadowski’s book.

Welcoming Schools comes into the picture in his chapter “Making It Elementary.” The Welcoming Schools approach is unique in its focus on elementary schools, which have historically been underserved when it comes to LGBTQ and gender topics. The chapter references Welcoming Schools lessons, art projects, glossaries, book lists, and other resources.

The importance of safe and inclusive schools cannot be underestimated. Even before the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw the protective guidance for transgender students, LGBTQ youth have struggled due to the 2016 election.

HRC Foundation recently released the results of a groundbreaking post-election survey of more than 50,000 young people ages 13-18 revealing the deeply damaging fallout the November election has had on youth across the United States. Findings include:

  • Among young people who reported seeing bullying and harassment, 70 percent had witnessed incidents motivated by race or ethnicity, 63 percent had seen incidents motivated by sexual orientation, 59 percent had seen incidents motivated by immigration status, and 55 percent had witnessed incidents motivated by gender.
  • Over the past 30 days, about half of transgender youth reported feeling hopeless and worthless most or all of the time, and 70 percent said that these and similar feelings have increased in the past 30 days.

Schools should absolutely start with safety, but they can’t stop there. According to Sadowski, they must “move beyond the notion of ‘better’ schools for LGBTQ youth toward an ideal educational experience for these students.”

Now more than ever, LGBTQ youth need to know they have support.  You can become a better advocate by attending HRC’s Time to THRIVE conference, the nation’s premier convening for K-12 educators, professional counselors and other youth-serving professionals on LGBTQ youth safety, inclusion and well-being. The 2017 conference will be held April 28-30 in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association.  

HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.

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