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Our Fight to Defeat the Transgender Military Ban Enters a New Phase

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Chase Strangio,
Deputy Director for Transgender Justice, ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project
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November 9, 2017

On the morning of July 26, 2017, President Trump made an announcement on Twitter.

With his series of tweets, Trump not only compromised the livelihoods, well-being, and lives of transgender service members — he sent a dangerous and dehumanizing message to all transgender and gender nonconforming individuals that we aren’t wanted.

His tweets also contravened the Department of Defense’s own determination in 2016 that there is no reason to exclude transgender individuals from openly serving in the military. Indeed, Trump’s declaration that he had consulted with his “Generals and military experts” was plaintly untrue.

Trump tweets

In August, the president turned his Twitter ban into formal policy, officially directing that the military return to the pre-June 2016 policy of banning transgender individuals from serving in the military “in any capacity.” The ACLU sued him immediately, and today we’re in federal district court in Maryland to seek an injunction to block the ban.

Without an injunction, transgender individuals would remain banned from enlisting in the military on Jan. 1, 2018, when the open transgender service for purposes of enlistment had been set to go into effect. Beginning on March 23, 2018, transgender individuals already serving our country and meeting the rigorous fitness standards to do so, would be subject to discharge just because they are transgender. Also on that date, medically necessary surgical care for transgender individuals would cease to be provided by the military.

Fortunately, the ban was dealt a blow last week when Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the federal district court of Washington, D.C. put the directives on hold in a lawsuit brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders. She determined that “all of the reasons proffered by the President for excluding transgender individuals from the military in this case were not merely unsupported, but were actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions and judgment of the military itself.”

That court further concluded that the government’s reasons appear “to be based on unsupported, ‘overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences,’ of transgender people,” and that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the ban is unconstitutional.

We are seeking comparable relief to have Trump’s dangerous directives fully put on hold. The bans threaten the careers, the health, and the dignity of transgender individuals who have devoted their lives to service of country.

To ensure that service members are protected from sweeping discrimination, having multiple court rulings will ensure that if one court running is put on hold or overturned, protections could be enforced in other federal courts.

The stakes could not be higher.

Our brave clients, who have risked a lot to serve their country, are taking on great risk in standing up against this injustice. They do so not just for other trans service members and not just for the broader trans community, but also for anyone in the path of discrimination.

Allow transgender service members to serve with dignity and respect. We’ve launched our latest ACLU camouflage socks in support.

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