June 14, 2019 – Today, the Ninth Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in Karnoski v. Trump, one of the four legal challenges to the ban on military service by transgender people. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court applied the wrong legal standard when it denied the government’s request to lift the court’s order halting the ban after Secretary Mattis issued a new policy about how to implement the ban in March, 2018. However, the Ninth Circuit also ruled that the district court can now reconsider whether to issue a new order halting the ban after applying the correct legal standard.
Circuit held that the Mattis policy singles out transgender people and must
therefore be reviewed under heightened scrutiny—which means that the burden to
justify the ban is on the government, and that the government must show that
discriminating against transgender people is substantially related to “an
exceedingly persuasive” governmental interest.
also applies in Stockman v. Trump, a challenge brought by Equality
California on behalf of its members and seven individual plaintiffs. GLAD and
NCLR are counsel in Stockman, along with Latham and Watkins LLP.
Jennifer Levi, Director of Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates
“This is a
hugely positive development. The Ninth Circuit recognized that the Mattis
plan clearly targets transgender people, and that the government faces an
uphill battle in justifying it.”
Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights:
provides a clear roadmap for striking down this discriminatory ban.
Transgender service members already must meet the same standards applied to
everyone else. The only effect of this policy is to exclude people who
meet those strict standards and are fit to serve, simply because they are
Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California
California welcomes this opportunity to once again make the case for why this
ban is harmful to transgender servicemembers, to their families and to our nation’s
military. Excluding qualified, dedicated Americans who want nothing more than
to serve our country is not only irrational, it is deeply contrary to the
military’s own values of judging individuals based on merit, not on irrelevant
characteristics that have nothing to do with their fitness to serve.”