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State of Washington Joins Lawsuit in Support of Transgender Military Service Members

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September 25, 2017
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The state of Washington filed a motion to intervene in support of the plaintiffs in Karnoski v. Trump, the federal lawsuit filed last month by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN challenging the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s ban on military service by transgender individuals.

Washington becomes the first state to intervene in one of the lawsuits challenging the discriminatory ban.

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn issued the following statement:

Once again, the state of Washington has put itself on the right of history by throwing its support behind our plaintiffs and all transgender people who seek to serve their country, particularly those from Washington.

We are grateful to Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson for standing up to discrimination – which the state of Washington has repeatedly done, from challenging the Trump Administration’s effort to ban Muslims from entering the United States to, more recently, joining 14 other states and the District of Columbia to challenge the administration’s cruel decision to end DACA.

Today Washington cements that reputation of standing up to discrimination.

With the addition of the state of Washington on our side, we will fight to ensure that transgender people have the same chance to serve our country and pursue their dreams as everyone else.

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed the lawsuit late last month in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and they represent nine individual plaintiffs and three organizational plaintiffs. The individual plaintiffs, all of whom are transgender, include:

  • Staff Sergeant Cathrine (“Katie”) Schmid, a 33-year-old woman and 12-year member of the U.S. Army currently serving in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, who has applied to become an Army Warrant Officer;
  • Petty Officer First Class Terece Lewis, a 33-year-old woman and 14-year member of the U.S. Navy serving on the U.S.S. John C. Stennis out of Bremerton, Washington; 
  • Chief Warrant Officer Lindsey Muller, a 35-year-old woman and 17-year member of the U.S. Army serving at Camp Humphreys near Seoul, South Korea; 
  • Petty Officer Second Class Phillip Stephens, a 29-year-old man and five-year member of the U.S. Navy serving at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso, Florida;
  • Petty Officer Second Class Megan Winters, a 29-year-old woman and five-year member of the U.S. Navy serving in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C.;
  • Ryan Karnoski, a 22-year-old Seattle man who currently works as a social worker and wishes to become an officer doing social work for the military;
  • Conner Callahan, a 29-year-old man who currently works in law enforcement in North Carolina;
  • Drew Layne, a high-school student from Corpus Christi, Texas, who is 17 years old and, with parental support, wants to join the Air Force; and
  • A ninth individual currently serving in the military who remains anonymous.

The organizational plaintiffs are the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Seattle-based Gender Justice League and the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), who joined the lawsuit on behalf of their transgender members who are harmed by the ban.

On July 26, 2017, attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia joined a letter denouncing the President’s exclusion of transgender individuals from the military as “blatant discrimination” that violates “fundamental constitutional and American values.” In addition to Washington, the states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.