DOJ Backs Down, Dismissing Appeal of Order Putting Trans Military Ban on Hold

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December 29, 2017
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Photo by: Gage Skidmore

Today, the Trump administration withdrew its appeal of a lower court ruling halting implementation of its discriminatory plan to ban transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Services.

Today’s actions clear the way for open enlistment by transgender people scheduled to begin Monday and also prevent transgender service members from being discharged while litigation proceeds.

“We are relieved that we don’t have to hit pause on the constitutional rights of transgender people who are willing and able to serve our country,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said. “Transgender service members have been serving openly and proudly for more than a year, and others are similarly ready to join their ranks. Federal district courts in DC, Maryland, Seattle and Los Angeles have seen through the administration’s hollow arguments in support of discrimination and rejected them, as have the federal appeals courts. The war isn’t over, but the government has waived the white flag before this battle even got started. The administration clearly saw the writing on the wall and withdrew its desperate effort, for now, to block transgender people from openly enlisting in the armed services and serving their country.”

The administration’s withdrawal of its appeal is the latest step in the lawsuit brought by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN challenging the ban.

Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington granted the motion filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN to preliminarily enjoin the government from taking actions inconsistent with the military policy that existed prior to July 26, 2017, under which transgender service members were allowed to serve openly, and transgender Americans seeking to join the military had a path forward for doing so.

“The decision shows that the government recognizes that its chances of reversing the district court were slim. We totally agree,” OutServe-SLDN Legal Director Peter Perkowski said. “There never was any rational justification for the exclusion of transgender people from serving openly, and one hopes the administration’s move this evening indicate it has taken the hint and will stop pursing a policy so clearly damaging to this nation’s military readiness.”

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN represent nine individual plaintiffs and three organizational plaintiffs - 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 harmed by the ban.

In October, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., granted a preliminary injunction in a similar lawsuit challenging the transgender military service ban filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

In November, a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland granted a preliminary injunction in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. And, just last week, a U.S. District Court judge in California granted a preliminary injunction in a case filed by Equality California, also joined by NCLR and GLAD.

The D.C. and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals denied the Trump administration’s efforts to secure stays on open enlistment in the two earlier cases.