Gender Justice League Sues Trump Administration Over Transgender Military Ban

The Seattle nonprofit is a plaintiff in one of two new lawsuits against the ban.

“The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” tweeted President Donald Trump on July 26. In addition to banning new enlistment and allowing discharge, Trump ordered that transgender service members be barred from promotion (“accession”) to officer-status, and he nixed federal money for “sex reassignment surgical procedures” for trans soldiers.

On Monday, two lawsuits were filed challenging the ban. One was in Maryland. The other was in Washington’s Western District Court.

The latter suit asks the court to issue a judgement declaring the ban unconstitutional, and to enjoin Trump and the military from enforcing the ban. One of the plaintiffs is Ryan Karnoski, a 22-year-old trans man who lives and works in Seattle as a mental health clinician. After his cousin was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009, he realized that military service is “a personal calling for him,” according to the lawsuit’s complaint.

Another is Staff Sergeant Cathrine Schmid, a 33-year-old trans woman who lives in Lakewood and is currently stationed as a Brigade Land and Ammunition Manager at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. According to the compliant, she “has always been a patriotic American with a desire to serve,” and has been held back from promotion because of Trump’s order.

A third plaintiff, identified only by the initials DL, is a trans male high school student in Corpus Christi, Texas, who wants to serve in the Air Force as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape trainer.

These individuals are joined by two organizational plaintiffs: national LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign and the Gender Justice League, a Seattle-based nonprofit.

“Dripping with animus, the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal process and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment,” reads the complaint, filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe SLDN, an organization that supports LGBT soldiers and vets. “They are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification.”

Trans service members were first formally permitted in 2016, at the end of President Barack Obama’s term. At the time, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said excluding trans people from the military limits the pool of talent available. “The Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now—the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” he said, according to NPR.

Part of Trump’s rationale for the ban is the cost of medical care for transgender soldiers. According to a Department of Defense study cited in the lawsuit, the cost of gender transitional health care for active-duty service members is between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. By comparison, the lawsuit argues, “it would cost $960 million to recruit and train the replacements for all the transgender individuals who are currently serving in the military.”

The lawsuit also argues that Trump did not even go through the motions of apolitical deliberation before announcing the ban, choosing instead to surprise the Pentagon with series of cliffhanger tweets:

“Before the President’s Twitter announcement, other top Pentagon officials were similarly unaware of his decision to ban transgender individuals from the military,” reads the complaint. “In fact, in the nine minutes between the President’s tweet at 8:55 a.m. Eastern Time…and his next tweet at 9:04 a.m. Eastern Time, there were concerns that President Trump was declaring war on North Korea.”

“The Ban and current accessions bar are motivated by impermissible animus towards transgender people and are thus invalid as a whole,” reads the complaint. “The Ban and the current accessions bar lack adequate tailoring and fail to serve even a legitimate governmental interest. Indeed, they epitomize the very kind of arbitrary and capricious government action that the Due Process Clause forbids.”

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

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