LOS ANGELES (October 2, 2017) – Equality California announced today that the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the LGBT legal organizations leading the fight against the Trump Administration’s transgender military ban, have joined as co-counsel in its lawsuit challenging the ban, Stockman v. Trump. Equality California is a plaintiff in the suit together with seven individual plaintiffs who are currently serving or have taken steps to enlist.
The three organizations today also filed a motion for preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for Central California to immediately stop the ban and prevent “further irreparable harm” to transgender Americans who are currently serving in the military or have been barred from enlisting. GLAD and NCLR previously filed a motion for preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Doe v. Trump, the first of four lawsuits across the country filed against the Trump Administration’s transgender military ban.
“The President’s reckless ban is harming transgender troops in communities all across the country,” said Shannon Minter, NCLR’s Legal Director. “Despite their dedicated service, the President has thrown the lives of thousands of military servicemembers and their families into chaos, devastating their livelihoods and dreams, and harming our country. We must use every tool in our power to fight this ban immediately, here in California and throughout the country.”
The California suit, Stockman v. Trump, was filed on behalf of Equality California – which represents 500,000 members, including transgender people directly affected by the President’s directive – and seven individual plaintiffs across the country who are being harmed by the ban. The suit claims the ban unlawfully discriminates against transgender people on the basis of their gender identity; impinges upon transgender people’s fundamental rights by penalizing and stigmatizing them for expressing a fundamental aspect of their personal identity; and unfairly punishes transgender people who came out in the military in reliance on the government’s assurances that they could serve openly.
“California is home both to the nation’s largest population of LGBTQ people and to the largest number of servicemembers,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “With his unnecessary and unjust ban, President Trump has attacked American heroes who simply want to serve their country. This ban will tear apart lives and livelihoods, cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and deprive the military of loyal, talented service members –it will not stand.”
“Thousands of transgender Americans serving around the globe have committed their lives and planned their futures around military service. The President’s ban is putting them and others around them in harm’s way,” said Jennifer Levi, Director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project. “This cruel, unfounded reversal of policy undermines the strength of our Armed Forces and threatens the safety of our nation. We cannot let it move forward.”
“When I read President Trump’s tweets, my heart sank. I feared that I would never be permitted to fulfill my longtime dream of military service. Small towns like Lisbon, Ohio—where I live—do not have many job opportunities. I am actively searching for a job where I can support myself and my grandmother who is unwell. Enlisting in the military provides a stable job, steady income, health benefits, and the pride of serving my country. If the ban were lifted today, I would immediately enlist in the United States Military. No one could be more dedicated and committed to wanting to serve,” said 23 year-old plaintiff Nicolas Talbott.
“I was in eighth grade when I first told my mother I dreamed of joining the military. During my junior year of high school, I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to prepare for a future in the Air Force that I have continued to plan for and work toward. The moment I learned of President Trump’s tweets, I was crushed. Right now, I work at a grocery store for minimum wage, and my store is shutting down. I live paycheck to paycheck. In the military, I would have access to training, a steady income, and career opportunities. If the ban were lifted today, I would go to a recruiter to discuss enlisting in the Air Force as soon as I could. Transgender individuals are just as qualified and capable to serve our country as any of our peers and many of us are eager to do so,” said 20 year-old plaintiff Aiden Stockman from Yucca Valley, California.
Also today, former top military leaders from across multiple branches of the U.S. Armed Forces filed powerful declarations. in support of the motion for preliminary injunction. These declarations underscore how strongly the military community opposes this reckless ban that both seriously harms transgender servicemembers and their families and puts national security at risk. The leaders filing declarations of support include retired Admiral Michael Mullen, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Former United States Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning; Former United States Secretary of the Navy Raymond Edwin Mabus, Jr; Former Secretary of the United States Air Force Deborah Lee James; Former Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Rogers Carson; and Former Deputy Surgeon General for Mobilization, Readiness, and Army Reserve Affairs Margaret Chamberlain Wilmoth.
In his declaration, Admiral Mullen said “When I led our armed forces under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards. There are thousands of transgender Americans currently serving and there is no reason to single them out to exclude them or deny them the medical care that they require. Moreover, I strongly believe that we should not return to the days of ‘forc[ing] young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.’”
“All Americans who are fit and willing to serve our country should be given the opportunity to do so,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California). “LGBT Americans have served in the military with honor and distinction, and I strongly support Equality California’s effort to ensure that their rights are protected.”
“The ban on transgender people serving in the military is unlawful discrimination on behalf of the Trump Administration,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California). “These are courageous individuals who are willing to risk their lives in service to our country. Barring them from enlisting and serving and from accessing essential medical care does not make our military stronger or our country safer. I applaud this action taken by Equality California, and remain committed to fighting in Congress for the rights of transgender and military communities.”
“The Trump Administration’s disgusting and unconstitutional transgender ban serves only to hurt and humiliate thousands of Americans who serve in our military with strength and courage,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Raw prejudice, not the national defense, is behind this cruel decision. It is with great pride that I support Equality California as it fights for justice and a swift end to this vile, hateful ban.”
“Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military is offensive, misguided, and contrary to our American values,” said California Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus. “The thousands of transgender military service members who have put their lives on the line for our country deserve better. The California Legislative LGBT Caucus stands by our transgender service members and will do everything in our power to prevent further discrimination.”
NCLR and GLAD join Latham & Watkins LLP as legal counsel in the case.
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