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Lambda Legal Applauds as President Biden Rescinds Transgender Military Ban

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“This discriminatory ban cheapened the bravery and patriotism of transgender service members and transgender people seeking to serve. We are grateful to see President Biden take action to relegate it to the trash bin of history, where it belongs."
January 25, 2021

Today, President Biden honored a commitment he made during the 2020 campaign and announced the rescission of the discriminatory ban on open military service by transgender people. Lambda Legal and Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) have been fighting for three years to block the ban, filing a lawsuit more than three years ago on behalf six currently serving servicemembers, two transgender clients seeking to enlist, and three organizational plaintiffs, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), American Military Partner Association (AMPA), and Gender Justice League (GJL), The State of Washington also joined the lawsuit.

“This is a significant and hopeful moment for our country. Over the last 3 years, we've fought to prove that transgender people are not a burden, a hindrance, or a distraction – we are an equal and contributing part of this society just as much as any other group, and this development vindicates that basic principle” said Staff Sergeant Cathrine (Katie) Schmid, a 15-year active servicemember of the U.S. Army. “This isn't simply about our place in the military, or my place in my unit. It’s about our right to be treated as co-equal members of society. This harmful and backwards policy will now be put where it belongs: in a very short, shameful chapter of US military history.”

“We look forward to turning the page on this dark chapter of our history and returning to the day when transgender people can once again serve their country openly, proudly, and equally. This ban was a low-water mark for our country, which defied the military’s own judgment permitting open service, and its reversal marks a recommitment to our country’s most basic promise of equality for all,” Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings said. “This discriminatory ban cheapened the bravery and patriotism of transgender service members and transgender people seeking to serve. We are grateful to see President Biden take action to relegate it to the trash bin of history, where it belongs.”

“We are grateful that President Biden has kept his promise and reversed this discriminatory and backwards policy, which was a stain on the military for over three years. The ban was harmful to military readiness and morale as much as it harmed transgender people who are serving and who want to serve. We look forward to full implementation of new regulations that put transgender people on equal footing with their cisgender counterparts and evaluates all servicemembers based on ability, without regard to gender identity,” said Peter Perkowski, Legal & Policy Director of the Modern Military Association of America, an organizational plaintiff in the suit under the name American Military Partner Association.

The lawsuit is Karnoski v. Trump. Read more about the case here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/karnoski-v-trump

The Lambda Legal attorneys working on the case are: Peter Renn, Diana Flynn, Camilla B. Taylor, Tara Borelli, Paul Castillo, Sasha Buchert, Carl Charles and Kara Ingelhart. They are joined by co-counsel Peter Perkowski of MMAA. Also on the legal team are pro-bono co-counsel at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Newman Du Wors LLP.

Statements from Individual and Organizational Plaintiffs:

“When we used the courts to stand up for ourselves, tell our stories, and speak out against the harm this ban has caused, a very clear picture emerged of the incredible service and dedication of a significant number of transgender Americans,” said Ryan Karnoski, a mental health clinician seeking to serve. “Ultimately, this ban backfired in its attempt to portray transgender Americans as categorically unfit to serve in the military, and its true legacy has been defined by the subsequent outpouring of patriotism, courage, and unequivocal fitness demonstrated by those of us whom President Trump sought to prohibit from service. These are the same qualities that drew many of us toward military service in the first place.”

“For the last several years, I've felt a target on my back. The thought of losing everything that I've worked so hard to obtain, even though I've done nothing wrong, was constantly on my mind,” said Petty Officer Second Class Megan Winters. “Without the ban, that target would be removed, and I could go back to simply being a fellow service member serving my country. Needless to say, President Biden’s announcement today is an important step towards getting some relief and peace of mind about my continued service and career in the United States Navy.”

“For years, transgender patriots were forced to continue to hide their identity while serving in our military. But today, thanks to President Joe Biden, Secretary Lloyd Austin, and pro-equality voters across America, they may live and serve openly as themselves. The government will begin the process to eliminate an arbitrary and discriminatory executive action that has not only harmed transgender service members but our entire military,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “The greatest military in the world will again value readiness over bias, and qualifications over discrimination. The order follows the Biden administration’s commitment to LGBTQ equality, including the issue of a substantive LGBTQ executive order on Day One that implements the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling. In the coming months, the Human Rights Campaign will work with the White House and Department of Defense to ensure open service proceeds smoothly and ensure every qualified patriot has an equal right to serve openly, free of discrimination.”

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Contact Info

Contact:  Tom Warnke, Cell: 213-841-4503: Email: twarnke@lambdalegal.org

 

Related Issues: Military, Transgender Rights

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