RIVERSIDE, Calif. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California rejected the Trump-Pence Administration's latest attempt to implement its discriminatory transgender military ban Tuesday, denying a motion to dissolve the nationwide preliminary injunction previously issued in a lawsuit filed by Equality California and seven active duty service members and recruits seeking to join the military.
"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," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal in the order denying the motion. "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. 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."
"Anyone willing to risk their life to protect our country should be treated fairly and with dignity and respect," said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. "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 National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD ) are representing plaintiffs in this case, Stockman v. Trump, along with Latham & Watkins LLP. Stockman is one of four cases in which plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the president's proposed purge of transgender servicemembers from the military have successfully blocked the ban from being put into effect while the cases proceed through the courts.
"More than 9,000 transgender troops are serving honorably and deserve to be protected by the constitution they are defending," said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. "Today's decision underscores the importance of our nation's courts in enforcing those constitutional guarantees."
Similar motions filed by the Justice Department have also been denied in Doe v. Trump, also brought by NCLR and GLAD, and Karnoski v. Trump, brought by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the Department's effort to put the denial of the dissolution of the preliminary injunction in Karnoski on hold pending appeal.
"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," said GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi. "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."
In November 2017, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra successfully intervened in the case to allow the State of California to join as co-Plaintiff.
"Today's ruling upholds our nation's values and interests. The Trump Administration's transgender military service ban does not," said Attorney General Becerra. "President Trump's despicable ban weakens our national security and erodes the fundamental value of equality that makes our nation great. Our servicemembers, regardless of gender identity, are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect us. We are proud to continue the fight to protect their liberties despite the federal government's disregard for equality and the rule of law."
Background on Stockman v. Trump:
Equality California, the nation's largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, along with four active transgender service members in the United States military and three transgender individuals who wish to enlist in the military, filed Stockman v. Trump in September 2017. In November 2017, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra successfully intervened in the case to allow the State of California to join as co-plaintiff. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and Latham & Watkins LLP are representing Equality California and the other Stockman v. Trump plaintiffs. The original complaint, filed on September 5, 2017, is available here.
—From a press release
Equality California is the nation's largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. www.GLAD.org
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org .