Los Angeles, CA — Equality California filed a lawsuit today in United States District Court for the Central District of California challenging the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s August 25 directive banning transgender people from enlisting or serving openly in the military, and denying them medically necessary healthcare.
Latham & Watkins LLP represents Equality California in the case, together with four named and three unnamed transgender plaintiffs, who are harmed by the ban. Equality California represents more than 500,000 members in California, including transgender people directly affected by the President’s order. California is home to the largest number of LGBT people and the largest concentration of servicemembers of any state. The three unnamed plaintiffs are active duty transgender servicemembers serving in the United States Army and Air Force. The August 25 directive bans them from continuing to serve in the military, and denies them necessary medical care. The four named individual plantiffs are Jaquice Tate, 27, an active-duty member of the Army, in addition to Aiden Stockman, 20, Nicolas Talbott, 23, and Tamasyn Reeves, 29, the three of whom have taken steps to enlist in the military but are barred from doing so under the ban.
The complaint names President Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and other top military officials as defendants, against whom it asserts several constitutional claims under the Fifth and First Amendments. It principally presses claims that 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 violates the right of transgender servicemembers to openly express who they are. It states that the ban is arbitrary, without a rational basis, and motivated by animus against transgender people.
“President Trump has attacked American heroes who have risen above discrimination, hostility and lack of acceptance to serve our country by putting their lives on the line in its defense,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “His justification for the ban bears no relation to the truth. Contrary to what the President states, ejecting loyal members of the armed forces promotes chaos and division, not unit cohesion. The cost to the government of transition-related care is negligible. On the other hand, discharging thousands will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and will rip trained and loyal servicemembers out of their units, harming military readiness and requiring the military to find and pay to train replacements. The order effectively leaves no discretion to military leaders, many of whom are firmly opposed to this ban.”
President Trump issued his directive to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. It reinstates a prohibition against transgender servicemembers lifted last year and makes good on his intentions announced on Twitter this past July to renew the ban. It also bars funding to pay for essential medical care for transgender service members except when “necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.” The ban must be fully implemented by March 2018.
Secretary Mattis’s comments last week changed nothing, as his comments were entirely consistent with what the August 25 directive already required: the ban will go into place in March 2018; transgender people who wish to enlist are, at this very moment, banned from doing so; and, with extremely limited exception, transgender servicemembers are currently and forever prohibited from receiving essential medical care. Any other understanding of the Defense Secretary’s remarks is “fake news.”
The President’s August 25 directive reverses a June 2016 policy implemented by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, which permitted transgender people to serve openly. The issuance of that policy followed an exhaustive, year-long review process in which military leaders from all branches of the Armed Forces participated and agreed that transgender people should be permitted to serve. That process included a comprehensive study by the RAND Corporation, which concluded that banning transgender people from military service served no legitimate purpose, while allowing open service would best serve the military’s needs.
“Military policy must be based on military concerns, not politics,” said Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which consulted with Equality California and Latham & Watkins LLP in preparing the case. “As the military itself concluded, transgender people who qualify for military service are just as capable of serving our country as others. The President’s new policy is an assault on dedicated service members who deserve nothing but our gratitude and respect, and it will undermine our national security.”
The case is titled Stockman v. Trump.
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