Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups slam government’s request to dismiss second lawsuit over trans military ban

DOJ says court should dismiss request for injunction because transgender plaintiffs have not suffered harm

Photo: Eric Draper, White House, via Wikimedia.

Just as it did with a case out of Washington, D.C. challenging President Trump’s ban on transgender military members, the U.S. Department of Justice has asked a federal court to dismiss a second lawsuit out of California challenging the very same ban, sparking angry responses from a host of pro-LGBTQ groups.

In the case, known as Stockman v. Trump, the DOJ makes identical arguments to those it made when it previously asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss Doe v. Trump, a separate lawsuit challenging Trump’s categorical prohibition on allowing transgender individuals to serve “in any capacity” in the U.S. military.

Namely, the Trump administration argues, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California should reject the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop the ban from taking effect, because they cannot prove they have suffered “irreparable harm” as a result of the ban, and that any perceived “harm” is speculative at best.

Furthermore, the DOJ argues that the interim guidance currently in effect — which allows transgender individuals to keep serving and even re-enlist for a new tour of service through February 2018 — is not discriminatory, and that the plaintiffs have no right to sue over policy changes that will not take effect until March 2018.

While the government’s response was not surprising, pro-LGBTQ group issued statements denouncing the Trump administration’s well-worn arguments.

“The Department of Justice has done it again,” Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, which is representing seven individual plaintiffs harmed by the ban, as well as LGBTQ organization Equality California, acting on behalf of its nearly 500,000 members, in the Stockman case. “They refuse to acknowledge how much damage President Trump’s transgender military ban is doing, or the lives that have been thrown into chaos as a consequence of this reckless policy. We are hopeful that the Court will see that the law is stacked against the ban and grant emergency relief. There is no time to waste.”

GLAD, along with its co-counsel, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, argues that transgender service members or those who wish to enlist are already being harmed by the policy. They point out that nothing in the Pentagon’s interim guidance prevents transgender service members from being forcibly discharged for reasons unrelated to their qualifications once the proposed ban takes effect on Mar. 23, 2018.

Nor, they argue, does anything in the interim guidance allow transgender people to join the military or enroll in service academies or ROTC programs. Lastly, they note that the interim guidance does nothing to address the flurry of conflicting instructions from the administration regarding whether transgender service members’ medically necessary care and medical costs will be covered.

GLAD and NCLR will file a response to the government’s motion to dismiss on Nov. 6, and a federal judge in California will hear arguments in the case on Nov. 20 at the George E. Brown Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Riverside, Calif.

Shannon Minter, the legal director for NCLR, said in a statement that the DOJ has “turned a blind eye to the devastation caused by this ban to our troops currently serving and to qualified, courageous transgender Americans who wish to enlist.”

“Real people are suffering,” Minter said, “and every day that goes by, the damage to service members and their families is more severe.”

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