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Equality California, GLAD, NCLR Applaud Ninth Circuit Ruling Giving Green Light For New Review of Transgender Military Ban
Equality California's Rick Zbur said: “Equality California welcomes this opportunity to once again make the case for why this ban is harmful to transgender servicemembers, to their families and to our nation’s military."
June 14, 2019 at 10:07 am

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June 14, 2019

CONTACT: Samuel Garrett-Pate, Equality California
PHONE: (323) 848-9801/MOBILE: (973) 476-3770/EMAIL: sam@eqca.org

SAN FRANCISCO —Today, the Ninth Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in Karnoski v. Trump, one of the four legal challenges to the ban on military service by transgender people. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court applied the wrong legal standard when it denied the government’s request to lift the court’s order halting the ban after Secretary Mattis issued a new policy about how to implement the ban in March, 2018. However, the Ninth Circuit also ruled that the district court can now reconsider whether to issue a new order halting the ban after applying the correct legal standard.

The Ninth Circuit held that the Mattis policy singles out transgender people and must therefore be reviewed under heightened scrutiny—which means that the burden to justify the ban is on the government, and that the government must show that discriminating against transgender people is substantially related to “an exceedingly persuasive” governmental interest.

Today’s ruling also applies in Stockman v. Trump, a challenge brought by Equality California on behalf of its members and seven individual plaintiffs. GLAD and NCLR are counsel in Stockman, along with Latham and Watkins LLP.

Statement from Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California:

“Equality California welcomes this opportunity to once again make the case for why this ban is harmful to transgender servicemembers, to their families and to our nation’s military. Excluding qualified, dedicated Americans who want nothing more than to serve our country is not only irrational, it is deeply contrary to the military’s own values of judging individuals based on merit, not on irrelevant characteristics that have nothing to do with their fitness to serve.”

Statement from Jennifer Levi, Director of Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders:

“This is a hugely positive development. The Ninth Circuit recognized that the Mattis plan clearly targets transgender people, and that the government faces an uphill battle in justifying it.”

Statement from Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

“Today’s ruling provides a clear roadmap for striking down this discriminatory ban. Transgender service members already must meet the same standards applied to everyone else. The only effect of this policy is to exclude people who meet those strict standards and are fit to serve, simply because they are transgender.”


Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. www.GLAD.org

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) was the first national LGBTQ legal organization founded by women and brings a fierce, longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and our community’s most vulnerable. Since 1977, NCLR has been at the forefront of advancing the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people and their families through impact litigation, public policy, and public education. Decades ago, NCLR launched the first LGBTQ Immigration Project, Transgender Rights Project, Youth Project, Elder Law Project, and began working to end conversion therapy through what is now the Born Perfect campaign. www.nclrights.org

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