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Becerra, civil rights groups vow to continue challenging military transgender ban

By February 3, 2019 No Comments
(Photo by David King via Flickr Creative Commons)

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and several California civil rights groups vowed Jan. 21 to continue challenging President Donald Trump’s restrictions on transgender people in the military despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The high court, by a 5-4 vote, issued orders staying two preliminary injunctions that would have blocked the ban from going into effect. It overruled the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which had declined to issue a stay.

The injunctions were issued by federal judges in Seattle and Los Angeles in lawsuits filed by transgender people who are in the military or want to join. Both injunctions are on appeal before the 9th Circuit.

But the Supreme Court did not grant the Justice Department’s request that it bypass the 9th Circuit altogether and take up the government’s appeals directly. Instead, the two cases and two others in Maryland and Washington, D.C., will continue in the lower courts.

Becerra said in a statement, “we will continue to fight to protect the rights of all Americans despite this president’s disregard for equality and the rule of law. This is 2019, not 1920.”

The state of California, represented by Becerra, was allowed to become a party in the Los Angeles case.

Shannon Minter, legal director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, said that excluding qualified individuals simply because they are transgender is “contrary to basic constitutional principles of equality and fairness.”

“We are confident the courts will ultimately protect the integrity of our nation’s military and hold that transgender service members must be evaluated based on the same standards applied to all others,” Minter said.

The center is among the legal groups representing plaintiffs in the Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles cases.

In the Washington, D.C., lawsuit, a U.S. district judge issued a preliminary injunction, but a federal appeals court overturned that injunction in early January. A fourth preliminary injunction was issued by a federal judge in Maryland and currently remains in effect.

The U.S. Defense Department said the Supreme Court’s action enables it to move closer to implementing the planned restrictions, but noted that the Maryland injunction is still in place.

Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason said, “the department is pleased with the orders issued by the Supreme Court today. We will continue to work with the Department of Justice regarding next steps in the pending lawsuits.”

Trump originally announced via Twitter in July 2017 that the U.S. government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

As refined last year by then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, the new policy would allow transgender people already in the military to remain, but would bar most from joining. The plan would reverse a policy of the administration of President Barack Obama that allowed transgender people to serve.

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said, “thousands of brave transgender troops around the world are currently serving our nation with honor. Their patriotism and sacrifice should be celebrated, not cruelly dismissed by a president who clearly cares more about delivering on campaign promises than he does about our national security.”

Equality California is a plaintiff in the Los Angeles case.

Story originally published by Bay City News.