Trump’s Ban Harming Transgender Troops; U.S. Military, Lambda Legal; OutServe-SLDN Tell Court

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN Thursday asked a federal court to halt immediately all steps taken to implement the Trump Administration’s discriminatory plan to ban transgender individuals from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Services.
“Before the President’s vicious attack on transgender Americans, transgender service members had been serving openly and proudly in every branch of the U.S. Military for more than a year,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said. “Since the President’s tweets, and his mandate for the Pentagon to implement his ban, those same service members have been branded as unfit to serve – to do the jobs they have been doing successfully – simply because they are transgender. That harm is real, it is palpable, and it is discriminatory.”“It is unacceptable to destroy the careers of patriotic and courageous members of the U.S. military,” said Peter Perkowski, Legal Director for OutServe-SLDN. “This ban must be stopped dead in its tracks before it goes any further so that these brave men and women can focus on their real jobs – protecting and serving the country they love.”

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed a motion for preliminary injunction on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The motion asks the court 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.

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN are now representing nine individual plaintiffs, all of whom are transgender, and three organizational plaintiffs – the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Seattle-based Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partner Association (AMPA).

The individual plaintiffs include six current service members and three individuals who wish to enlist. The current service members are: Staff Sergeant Cathrine (“Katie”) Schmid, a 33-year-old woman and 12-year member of the U.S. Army currently serving in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, who has applied to become an Army Warrant Officer; Petty Officer Terece Lewis, a 33-year-old woman and 14-year member of the U.S. Navy serving on the U.S.S. John C. Stennis out of Bremerton, Washington; Lindsey Muller, a 35-year-old woman and seventeen-year member of the U.S. Army serving in Seoul, South Korea; Phillip Stephens, a 29-year-old man and five-year member of the U.S. Navy serving at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso, Florida; Megan Winters, a 29-year-old woman and five-year member of the U.S. Navy serving in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C.; and a sixth individual who remains anonymous. The three plaintiffs who seek to join the military are: Ryan Karnoski, a 22-year-old Seattle man who currently works as a social worker and wishes to become an officer doing social work for the military; Conner Callahan, a 29-year-old man who currently works in law enforcement in North Carolina; and Drew Layne, a high-school student from Corpus Christi, Texas, who is 17 years old and, with parental support, wants to join the Air Force.

“It is impossible to overstate how important it was when the Pentagon lifted the ban on open service, when I and other transgender service members were finally able to live and serve as our true and authentic selves,” Phillip Stephens said. “To read those tweets, to have the rug pulled out from under us, to be branded unfit to serve was devastating, not just for me, but really for the U.S. Military and military readiness as a whole.”