Metro Weekly

15 attorneys general file brief opposing transgender service ban

Brief argues that opening up military service to transgender individuals has not adversely affected Armed Forces

Photo: Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade, U.S. Army, via Wikimedia.

A coalition of 15 attorneys general have filed an amicus brief opposing the Trump administration’s plans to prohibit transgender individuals from serving openly in the U.S. military.

The brief, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, argues that banning transgender individuals from serving is unconstitutional, contrary to the interest of national defense, and harmful to the transgender community at large. The case, Doe v. Trump, is one of four lawsuits currently challenging the ban, and one of two being brought by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

In the brief, the attorney generals say that transgender individuals volunteer to serve in the Armed Forces at approximately twice the rate of adults in the general population. In total, there are approximately 150,000 veterans, active-duty service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserves who identify as transgender.

The attorneys general argue that since adopting open service policies under then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the military has not been harmed or hampered.

“[T]here is no evidence that [an open service policy] has disrupted military readiness, operational effectiveness, or morale,” the brief reads. “To the contrary, anecdotal accounts indicate that the positive impacts of inclusion were beginning to manifest, as capable and well-qualified individuals who were already serving finally were able to do so authentically.”

The brief also argues that transgender people should have the right to be free from discrimination and participate fully and equally in all aspects of civic life, including military service.

“Nothing about being transgender inhibits a person’s ability to serve in the military or otherwise contribute to society,’ the attorneys general write. “To the contrary, the experience of the Amici States shows that transgender individuals are just as capable as their non-transgender counterparts and make a meaningful positive impact in our schools, workplaces, and communities. Still, the transgender community has suffered ‘a history of persecution and discrimination’ that persists into the present day.

“To combat discrimination, twenty states — including many Amici States — have enacted civil rights protections for transgender people in education, employment, health care, housing and/or public accommodations. And about 225 local governments prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression by public and private employers in their jurisdictions. As the experiences of the Amici States and these other jurisdictions show, transgender-inclusive policies help to ease the stigma on transgender people, thereby mitigating the negative impact on their educational, work, and health outcomes. Such policies also foster a more just and productive society for all our residents.”

The states that have signed onto the brief are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington D.C.

“Our military should be open to every brave American who volunteers to serve,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who led the effort on the amicus brief, said in a statement. “Together with my colleagues, I am filing this brief today to ensure inclusion and opportunity for everyone who puts on a uniform.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com