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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.”
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 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.”Read more
Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicide.
This September, HRC marks National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month by reaffirming our commitment to support the wellbeing of LGBTQ youth and adults.
Though this support can come in many forms, HRC recognizes the fundamental role parents play in fostering a safe and inclusive community for young people.
According to a 2016 study published in LGBT Health, family rejection increases the odds of substance misuse and suicide attempts in transgender and gender non-conforming people. These results mirror research by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project, which found that LGBTQ youth whose families affirm their gender identity and sexual orientation are almost 50 percent less likely to make a suicide attempt compared to those whose families are unsupportive.
Acknowledging the importance of parental support within the LGBTQ community, last year HRC launched the Parents for Transgender Equality Council, a national committee of parent-advocates fighting for transgender equality. Their work builds upon insights gained from parents and family members of LGBTQ children within the larger HRC network, including those who participated in HRC’s #LoveYourNeighbor video campaign.
By sharing their stories as parents of LGBTQ children who have been affected by suicide, we hope to amplify the voices of love, inclusion and support for the LGBTQ community, particularly to those currently at risk.
Joanne Lee is a member of the Parents for Transgender Equality Council. Her two children were assigned female at birth, but both came out as transgender males in 2014. At first, Lee did not accept her transgender sons. But in 2015, after one of Lee’s sons, Skyler, took his own life due to depression, her outlook completely changed.
Marsha Aizumi shared her touching story as mother of a transgender son at HRC’s 2016 Time to THRIVE conference. Her journey to accept her transgender son led her to advocate for full equality of all LGBTQ people.
HRC’s #LoveYourNeighbor video storytelling project featured Jolie and Lillie Ben, mother and sister of a lesbian daughter who died by overdose, from Birmingham, Alabama.
For parents looking for resources on how to support LGBTQ youth, HRC’s Welcoming Schools program provides tools and resources for parents, educators and administrators focused on making schools inclusive for all children and families.
If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project provides support for LGBTQ youth, and their 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached at 1-866-488-7386. If you are a transgender person of any age, call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860
To learn more about supporting LGBTQ youth in their homes, schools and communities, visit www.hrc.org/youth.Read more
Today, HRC Foundation released a new report, Trump’s Administrative Abuse and the LGBTQ Community, highlighting the Trump-Pence administration’s highly unusual and abusive efforts to quietly roll back critical protections, programs and services for the LGBTQ community by bypassing longstanding administrative policies and customs for instituting such changes.
“Under the Trump-Pence administration, federal agencies have ignored long-standing guidelines for engaging the public in policy changes specifically targeting the LGBTQ community and in some instances have failed to report changes all together,” said HRC Associate Legal Director Robin Maril. “This stealth effort by Trump-Pence to disregard the legal safeguards in place to promote consistency and public accountability is undermining public trust and fostering an atmosphere of anxiety and skepticism.”
The new HRC Foundation report details the Trump-Pence administration’s concerted effort to ignore longstanding policy and customs — including those calling for 30- to 90-day public comment periods for most rulemaking. The administration has released a series of complex, high-impact rules with appallingly brief public comment periods — some allowing just days for interested and affected parties to weigh in.
In March, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ALC) failed to announce it had removed a crucial question about sexual orientation from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP), an annual national survey of recipients of select services under the Older Americans Act (OAA). Following an outcry from advocates including HRC, HHS finally issued an announcement correction — but refused to extend the public comment period.
Additionally, the Trump administration has been pushing major and controversial regulation changes affecting LGBTQ people though interim final rules (IFRs), which allow changes to become effective immediately, without public comment. Before Trump was elected, this process was reserved for urgent changes and was rarely used for complex or controversial regulations except in emergencies. In May, Trump proposed an IFR that could strip millions of women and LGBTQ people of access to critical contraceptive care previously guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Vox reported on a leaked draft of the proposal that would allow employers — including for-profit companies — to refuse to provide insurance coverage of birth control on the basis of religious or moral objections.
Also detailed in the HRC Foundation report is Trump’s reliance on social media platforms like Twitter to announce presidential intent, reflecting not only disrespect for the process and the people affected by his pronouncements, but also a dangerous misunderstanding of the limits of his own power. Trump’s unconscionable tweets asserting his intention to bar qualified transgender people from serving their country in the U.S. Military are a prime example of this undemocratic power grab.
Tweets can’t make policy. They don’t carry the force of law, and, as we have seen by Trump’s recent actions, they do not provide federal agencies and their staff with the vision and guidance required to implement policy. Unfortunately, what tweets can do is incite anxiety, undermine the real and valuable daily work of the federal government, and contribute to a corrosive and divisive political atmosphere.
Read the full report, Trump’s Administrative Abuse and the LGBTQ Community, here.Read more
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It was my pleasure and privilege to both attend and present at Gender Odyssey Seattle August 23-27 to bring Welcoming Schools materials and resources to more families and youth-serving professionals to create supportive learning environments for all students. My Welcoming Schools colleagues and I were delighted to participate in thought-provoking workshops and discussion groups on gender diversity while also introducing our national program for safe and inclusive schools.
The Gender Odyssey Conference, an international conference focused on the needs and interests of transgender and gender diverse people, their loved ones and professionals who serve them, is in its 16th year. Gender Odyssey offers two programs with a different target audience: the family program for families raising gender-diverse and/or transgender children and the professional program for those seeking to enhance their understanding of those they serve.
Aidan Key, the founder of the conference, leads the largest network of support groups in the nation for families raising transgender and gender-nonconforming children at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He also happens to be one of our newest Welcoming Schools Facilitators, having attended our National Facilitator Certification Training in June.
I presented a session entitled “Welcoming Schools: Talking to Elementary Students about Gender” during day one of the professional program. We explored developmentally appropriate ways to respond to questions about gender and looked at lesson plans and books that can help educators to create gender-inclusive classrooms. Welcoming Schools Certified Facilitator Tracy Flynn presented the same workshop during the family program. On day two, I joined Key and Asaf Orr, an attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, for a robust question and answer session called “Gender Google for Schools.”
Every year I attend, Gender Odyssey is an invigorating time of learning and sharing, and the most powerful experience is always listening to transgender and non-binary youth speak their truths. I attended an incredible youth panel and listened as dynamic youth shared their experiences, aspirations and ideas for change. As the young people shared their personal stories and vision for a culture that no longer embraces the gender binary, one member of the audience asked a panelist how they fight against stereotypical notions of gender and received a confident, one word response, “Feminism.” The confidence and drive that the panelists displayed as they discussed their experiences with toxic masculinity in schools, their desires to be the changemakers that they already are, and gracefully offered suggestions for the adults in the room. only increased my drive to work with schools and districts to continually improve learning environments and outcomes for transgender and non-binary youth.
Gender Odyssey is an outstanding, informative conference, and I highly encourage interested educators, youth-serving professionals, and families to attend in the future. We at Welcoming Schools certainly plan to be back.
HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools by embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ- and gender-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, a supporting transgender and non-binary students.Read more
Post submitted by Srun Srorn, HRC Global Innovator and Founder of CamASEAN
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