Metro Weekly

15 states and D.C. file amicus brief opposing Trump’s military ban

Amici states argue that a ban on transgender service members is discriminatory and unconstitutional

Three of the plaintiffs in the Karnoski v. Trump lawsuit – Photo: Lambda Legal.

A coalition of 15 states and Washington, D.C. have filed and signed onto an amicus brief in opposition to President Trump’s efforts to ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.

The amicus brief calls on the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in Karnoski v. Trump and declare that any ban on transgender service members is unconstitutional.

Karnoski v. Trump is one of four separate lawsuits being brought against the Trump administration to challenge the proposed ban.

The plaintiffs in the case include six active-duty military members and three prospective recruits, including lead plaintiff Ryan Karnoski, a 22-year-old transgender male who wishes to enlist, as well as the Human Rights Campaign, the Seattle-based Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partners Association. 

The plaintiffs are being represented by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN.

In December, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman granted an injunction to stop the Trump administration and Pentagon leaders from taking actions to implement the ban while the case is being resolved in court. At the time, Pechman also found that the plaintiffs in the case were likely to succeed in convincing the court of the unconstitutionality of the ban, which is quite broad, as it bans all transgender individuals, regardless of qualifications, from serving.

The states signing onto the amicus brief include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexco, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has also joined the coalition of opponents, on behalf of the District of Columbia.

“The Amici States share a strong interest in the readiness and effectiveness of our national defense, including an interest in ensuring that our Armed Forces and related institutions recruit, train, retain, and promote qualified service members,” the brief states. “The Amici States also strongly support the rights of transgender people to live with dignity, to be free from discrimination, and to participate fully and equally in all aspects of civic life. These interests are all best served by allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military.

“Our collective experience demonstrates that the full inclusion of transgender people strengthens our communities, our state and federal institutions, and our nation as a whole. Discriminatory prohibitions on participation in civic life, on the other hand, impose significant harms on the Amici States and our residents,” the brief continues. 

“The Amici States therefore have a strong interest in ensuring that our Armed Forces move forward, not backward, and continue to allow transgender people to serve openly in all branches.”

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