Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups urge federal court to permanently block Trump’s transgender military ban

LGBTQ advocates maintain that, even with exemptions for some service members, the overall ban is still unconstitutional

The Pentagon. Photo: Department of Defense – Photo: Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia.

A coalition of LGBTQ groups will ask the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to permanently block the Trump administration’s plans to bar most transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.

Last week, the White House and Pentagon announced that transgender individuals who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria would be barred from serving.

Under the revised policy, which was approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, some transgender people not diagnosed with gender dysphoria may serve, so long as they have been “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession” and do not require extensive medical or hormonal treatments or special accommodations. There is also an exemption for those active-duty transgender individuals who are already serving but have not yet undergone gender confirmation surgery.

Last year, Trump announced his intention to issue a sweeping ban that would prevent all transgender individuals, regardless of ability or circumstance, from serving in the Armed Forces. Several courts issued temporary injunctions — which remain in effect — that prevent the Pentagon from trying to implement its preferred policy before the lawsuits are resolved in court.

 

According to reporting from Slate magazine, the White House relied on a panel of so-called “experts” who were working behind the scenes to provide justification for the ban, relying on a combination of “anti-trans propaganda with baseless, discredited concerns about the alleged danger of open transgender service,” including false claims about military readiness, privacy, and cost.

Members of that secret panel included Vice President Mike Pence, Ryan T. Anderson, a known advocate for religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws and opponent of transgender rights, and Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council.

Given the backgrounds and motivations of those who worked to craft the new policy, as well as the sweeping generalizations that the new policy continues to make about transgender individuals, several LGBTQ advocates say that the revised policy is still discriminatory and should be declared unconstitutional.

As such, Lambda Legal, OutServe-SLDN, and the State of Washington will be asking the court — on behalf of several transgender soldiers, prospective recruits, and three LGBTQ organizations: the Human Rights Campaign, Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partner Association — to issue a permanent injunction blocking the ban from taking effect.

The Palm Center, an organization that advocates for allowing LGBTQ people to serve openly in the military, which previously accused the Pentagon of distorting science “in service to the ideological goals of the Trump-Pence base,” released a statement from 26 retired General and Flag officers in the military, who called the revised policy a “troubling move backward.”

“Under the newly announced policy, most transgender individuals either cannot serve or must serve under a false presumption of unsuitability, despite having already demonstrated that they can and do serve with distinction,” the officers said in the statement. “They will now serve without the medical care every service member earns, and with the constant fear of being discharged simply for who they are.

“We should not return to the days of forcing men and women to hide in the shadows and serve their country without institutional support,” the statement continues. “This deprives the military of trained and skilled service members, which harms readiness and morale. There is simply no reason to single out brave transgender Americans who can meet military standards and deny them the ability to serve.”

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