Lawsuits Filed Against Trump’s Transgender Service Ban

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Along with Trump's morally depraved decision to pardon birther posse sheriff Joe Arpaio for contempt of federal court, the White House tried to bury the transgender military surface ban on Friday night during the imminent landfall of Hurricane Harvey.

Legal advocates spent the weekend considering their options and at least two have now filed lawsuits against the ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit in Maryland under the jurisdiction of the Fourth District Court of Appeals, alleging that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The federal lawsuit , Stone v. Trump, was filed in Maryland on Monday by the ACLU of Maryland on behalf of Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, an 11-year Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, and several other transgender members of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines. [...]

The lawsuit says Trump's policy violates the equal protection rights of transgender service members who now have "grave reason to fear for their careers."

The ACLU's lawsuit cites Trump's tweets and various news reports to claim that the White House did not actually weigh the cost or supposed "burden" of accommodating transgender military service members.

For example, Trump tweeted that he consulted "the Generals," but the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense had no idea he was going to announce such a thing. In reality, the Joint Chiefs were uncharacteristically defiant of Trump's arbitrary announcement.

The lawsuit also cites news reports that Trump announced the transgender service ban because he wanted to secure funding for his fantasy border wall. As you may recall, reports indicated that some members of the House Freedom Caucus threatened to vote against a "minibus" security funding bill if it didn't include a ban on transgender military service. I personally believe they were bluffing, but there is every indication that Trump bought it.

Meanwhile, Lambda Legal and OutServe have filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington state under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed the lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The individual plaintiffs, all of whom are transgender, include: 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; 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 near Tacoma, Washington, who has applied to become an Army Warrant Officer; and Drew Layne, a high-school student from Corpus Christi, Texas, who is about to turn 17 and, with parental support, wants to join the Air Force. HRC and Gender Justice League have joined the lawsuit on behalf of their transgender members who are harmed by the ban.

I hestitate to sit here and say this will be a slam dunk, but there will come a time when the Trump regime is asked to justify the ban in court and we already know what the cost of providing transgender-specific health care to military service members is. It's far less than the cost of boner pills.

Furthermore, if there are any cases of transgender service members actually compromising military "readiness," we haven't heard any of them. I highly doubt there are any such cases that actually implicate gender identity as the root cause of disruption.

For the government to justify a constitutionally-dubious policy like this, they must cite extraordinary evidence in court, but we as far as we know they have no evidence at all let alone extraordinary evidence.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Furthermore, if there are any cases of transgender service members actually compromising military “readiness,” we haven’t heard any of them.

    “Compromised military readiness” and it’s twin “having a bad effect on unit cohesion and discipline” are the same baseless arguments we heard against gays in the military.

    If someone in the military is unable to carry out their duty because of the sexual orientation or identity of someone else in their unit, it isn’t that someone else who is causing a problem. And the “We have to get rid of the victim because they make the bully feel uncomfortable.” is, alas, the typical of the reactions we get from the military.

    • “Compromised military readiness” and it’s twin “having a bad effect on unit cohesion and discipline” are the same baseless arguments we heard against gays in the military.
      And women. And black men.

      • Christopher Foxx

        Always used as a cover for “You’re interfering with my ability to be a bigot!”

  • muselet

    I almost said these lawsuits would be a lead-pipe cinch to win in an ideal universe, but that’s not the case. In an ideal universe, there wouldn’t have been a ban on transgender servicepeople in the first place (in our universe, there was a ban which was suspended by Barack Obama pending review and the creation of a new policy by the Department of Defense; that suspension was reversed by Donald Trump).

    In our universe, I’m not dumb enough to make predictions about this. It looks like the administration doesn’t have any chance of prevailing, but there are lots of Righty federal judges and I can see a ban being upheld by the Supremes (probably 5-4), no matter how constitutionally-dubious the policy cooked up by the administration is.


    • JMAshby

      I’m pretty sure the Fourth Circuit will rule against Trump’s ban because the court also ruled against North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” for violating the Equal Protection Clause.

      I don’t know the Ninth Circuit as well as I do the Fourth Circuit.

      The best case scenario, in my view, is that both courts rule against it and the Supreme decline to take the case, allowing the lower court rulings to stand. Ideally, the Supreme Court would take it up and rule in favor of civil rights, but that’s too risky.

      This is assuming Congress will do nothing about it.

      • Badgerite

        Ninth Circuit is west coast. Includes San Francisco. Is very influential and usually hues to a more expansive reading of the Constitution and Equal Protection Clause. But we’ll see. As you mention, there is no actual military necessity that POS can cite. This is animus on his part and playing the politics of bigotry.
        The military leadership has made clear that they do not support this and that it will even interfere with military readiness. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals includes district courts of Alaska, Arizona and Hawaii and 4 district courts of California.

      • muselet

        The Ninth Circuit is likely to strike down the ban, but it kind of depends on the panel selected to hear the appeal: overall, the Ninth is liberal-leaning—though not nearly to the degree Righty media insist it is—but it does have some conservative judges.

        As for the Supremes, it all depends how squicky the Roberts-to-Thomas (?Gorsuch) wing of the court is about transgender people. I’m not making any bets.


        • Badgerite

          “but her EMAILS” . Please slap for me anyone who ever said that,
          Oh and also, the words “status quo”, “establishment” or “neo liberal”.
          Thanks for the info.

  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius
    • Christopher Foxx

      Not getting it. Why butter?

      • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

        Butter Emails –> “But her emails!”

        • Christopher Foxx

          Ah. Thanks.

          (Now embarrassed my mind kept going to Brando…)

  • Username1016

    It’s still damn scary. Trump has been leaving lots of appointments unfilled, but I hear he’s packing the courts.