Metro Weekly

Federal court denies Trump administration’s latest attempt to push forward with transgender military ban

Judge's decision coincides with 7-year anniversary of end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

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

A federal court in California has rejected the latest request by the Trump administration to dissolve a nationwide preliminary injunction that prevents the Pentagon from forcibly discharging transgender service members.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal of the Central District of California denied the government’s motion to lift the injunction, rejecting the premise that the ban on transgender troops is essential to ensuring military readiness or facilitating unit cohesion.

“In the history of military service in this country, ‘the loss of unit cohesion’ has been consistently weaponized against open service by a new minority group,” Bernal wrote in his opinion. “Yet, at every turn, this assertion has been overcome by the military’s steadfast ability to integrate these individuals into effective members of our armed forces. As with blacks, women, and gays, so now with transgender persons.

“”The military has repeatedly proven its capacity to adapt and grow stronger specifically by the inclusion of these individuals,” he added. “Therefore, the government cannot use ‘the loss of unit cohesion’ as an excuse to prevent an otherwise qualified class of discrete and insular minorities from joining the armed forces.”

Equality California, which signed on as a plaintiff in the case on behalf of its transgender members, praised Bernal’s decision.

“Anyone willing to risk their life to protect our country should be treated fairly and with dignity and respect,” Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California, said in a statement. “As long as President Trump continues to double down on this unpatriotic and discriminatory ban, we’ll continue to fight him with everything we’ve got — and we have a pretty good track record of winning.”

The California case, known as Stockman v. Trump, is one of four cases challenging the constitutionality of President Trump’s proposed transgender ban, which the administration has been trying to implement since last July.

In each of the cases, federal judges have blocked the ban from going into effect while the case moves through the courts — and refused to lift their injunctions when asked to by the government. 

“More than 9,000 transgender troops are serving honorably and deserve to be protected by the constitution they are defending,” said Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing the plaintiffs along with GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders. “Today’s decision underscores the importance of our nation’s courts in enforcing those constitutional guarantees.”

“Judge Bernal’s decision is the most recent in a now long line of federal district court cases rejecting any military-focused justifications for a ban on transgender service members,” GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi said in a statement. “Transgender service members have been courageously putting their lives on the line for their country. It is in the interest of our country’s security that they continue to be permitted to do so.”

Bernal’s decision comes during the same week that LGBTQ advocates celebrate the seven-year anniversary of the overturn of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from serving openly.

Minter and Levi issued a statement addressing the anniversary and drawing parallels to the proposed transgender ban.

“Seven years ago, our country discarded a baseless and discriminatory policy that forced dedicated and courageous service members into the shadows,” Minter and Levi said. “But under President Trump, we see history repeating itself. The same stigma and false stereotypes used to justify Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are being reprised by the Trump-Pence administration in an attempt to force out 9,000 trained, qualified transgender troops, who are serving honorably at home and overseas.

“To date, every court to hear a case challenging the ban has recognized that these arguments ring hollow and that any service member who can meet the standards should be permitted to serve. But the Trump-Pence administration continues to try to push the ban forward,” they added. “Just as we stood with our community during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, we will continue to stand with transgender service members now until Trump’s unconstitutional, discriminatory transgender military ban is relegated to the dustbin of history.”

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

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