Metro Weekly

California seeks to intervene in lawsuit challenging Trump’s military service ban

Xavier Becerra says ban affects ability of California National Guard to attract and retain high-quality recruits

California AG Xavier Becerra – Photo: Office of the California Attorney General.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) has filed a motion to intervene as a plaintiff in Stockman v. Trump, one of four separate lawsuits challenging President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender military service.

“We must honor the service and sacrifice of all members of our military by fighting for them when their rights are attacked,” Becerra said in a statement. “California will not allow President Trump’s illegal, discriminatory, and un-American actions to harm our people or our military. Marginalizing transgender service members or any transgender American who wishes to serve our country faithfully and courageously will not occur on our watch.”

Filed on behalf of Equality California’s nearly 500,000 members and seven active-duty service members or prospective military recruits who are transgender, the lawsuit argues that the ban is unconstitutional and singles out transgender people for disparate treatment based on their identity, rather than their qualifications.

“Having the support of California’s Attorney General is invaluable in our fight against this administration’s reckless and dangerous actions,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement. “This ban is having untold, negative impacts on our transgender service members and those who have taken steps to join the military, and having this support from California’s chief law enforcement official shows us that our state will fight alongside us for justice and equality.”

Prior to asking the court to intervene in the case, Becerra’s office had filed several amicus briefs in support of LGBTQ service members and veterans in the Doe v. Trump lawsuit based in Washington, D.C. and the Stone v. Trump lawsuit out of Baltimore. Both of those cases have argued, as the plaintiffs in Stockman will, that the court should issue an order to enjoin the Trump administration and the Pentagon from implementing the ban, which is slated to go into effect on Mar. 23, 2018, in order to prevent transgender service members from suffering “irreparable harm.”

“For the Attorney General to take this step sends a powerful message about the gravity of the harm caused by this ban,” Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, said in a statement. “We should be embracing the contributions of dedicated, courageous Americans who are serving and want to serve. Blocking qualified transgender Americans from serving makes our military weaker and our nation less safe and less fair.”

The plaintiffs in the Stockman case will next appear in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Riverside, on Nov. 20.
 
In the motion to intervene filed with the court, Becerra argues that the ban would impede the ability of the California National Guard to recruit and retain members who could protect the State’s natural resources in times of need, such as when wildfires recently raged through California’s wine country. Becerra also notes that the ban would violate California’s nondiscrimination laws by refusing admittance to a protected class, and would threaten the ability of the state to safeguard public institutions of higher learning from discrimination in ROTC programs.
 
“The State of California recognizes that Trump’s discriminatory ban harms not only transgender service members and our military, but also those who rely on our National Guard for emergency assistance,” Shannon Minter, of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “This point is particularly critical in California, which has been facing unprecedented wildfire devastation. We need to embrace every qualified person who is willing to serve, not turn people away simply for being transgender.”
 
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com