Trump administration drops attempts to delay transgender enlistment after repeated court losses in GLAD and NCLR lawsuits; military to begin accepting qualified trans recruits after January 1
GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project Director: “At the heart of this case are brave transgender Americans who stand ready to put their lives on the line in defense of our country. Our nation will only benefit from the service of these courageous individuals.”
NCLR’s Legal Director, Shannon Minter: “Transgender people are part of this country, and their willingness to take on the hardships and sacrifices of military service should be honored.”
(Washington, D.C., December 30, 2017)—Late yesterday, the Trump administration announced it would not ask the United States Supreme Court to stay the district court’s order requiring enlistment of transgender individuals in Doe v. Trump, a case brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) challenging President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. The Pentagon confirmed that the military will, as of January 1, begin implementing the enlistment policy announced by former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2016 and adopted after exhaustive military analysis. This marks the first time in United States history that qualified transgender Americans will be authorized to openly enlist in the nation’s Armed Forces.
Last night the Trump administration also dismissed existing appeals of three preliminary injunctions issued in cases filed to stop President Trump’s transgender military ban, including in Doe v. Trump. The administration had not yet filed an appeal of the December 22 preliminary injunction secured in NCLR and GLAD’s second case, with Equality California, Stockman v. Trump. The Department of Justice has indicated it will continue opposing legal challenges to the ban in federal district courts.
“This is a major victory in the litigation and great news for transgender troops, transgender military academy and ROTC students, and transgender people who have been waiting to enlist,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR Legal Director. “There is no reason to exclude transgender people from military service, especially when they have already proved their ability to serve. Transgender people are part of this country, and their willingness to take on the hardships and sacrifices of military service should be honored, not banned.”
“This is a historic and proud moment for our country. Transgender people have made amazing contributions to our Armed Forces, serving honorably throughout the services including overseas and in combat. We are stronger when the military reflects all of who we are as a nation,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director. “At the heart of this case are brave transgender Americans who stand ready to put their lives on the line in defense of our country. Our nation will only benefit from the service of these courageous individuals. We know this fight is not over. But having transgender people be allowed to openly enlist in the military marks a huge development and hopefully the beginning of the end of this baseless ban.”
On December 22, the D.C. Court of Appeals denied a Trump administration request for an emergency stay to delay transgender enlistment in Doe v. Trump, in a strongly worded opinion noting that the Department of Defense disseminated guidance for processing transgender enlistees on December 8, and admonishing the administration for not properly informing the Court about the existence of that guidance. Nearly 50 retired military and national security officials submitted an amicus brief noting that the military began taking the necessary steps to prepare for enlistment by transgender individuals nearly a year and a half ago, and refuting the need for further delay. On December 18, the Palm Center released a report further repudiating Trump administration assertions that the military would not be ready to process transgender enlistees by January 1, including confirmation from former military Surgeons General that training military medical examiners and recruiters to process transgender candidates would be neither complicated nor time-consuming, and was nearly completed a year ago.
In Doe v. Trump and Stockman v. Trump, NCLR and GLAD argue that Trump’s ban—first announced in a series of tweets—is unfounded and discriminatory because qualified and able transgender Americans who wish to enlist are barred from doing so for no military-related reason. The ban also demeans and stigmatizes qualified, capable transgender troops who are facing discharge along with the accompanying loss of their professions, livelihoods, health care, and the post-military retirement they have worked hard to earn.
NCLR and GLAD have been at the center of the legal fight challenging President Trump’s military ban since filing Doe v. Trump, the first of four cases filed against the ban, on August 9. On October 30, the Trump administration lost the first round when Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s issued the first nationwide preliminary injunction temporarily halting Trump’s ban and requiring equal treatment of transgender troops and enlistees while the legal challenge makes its way through the courts. Since that time, three other courts have ruled similarly, issuing nationwide preliminary injunctions against Trump’s ban.