116 House Democrats push for end to transgender military ban following Supreme Court ruling
More than 100 Democratic House lawmakers are calling on the Trump administration to end its transgender military ban following a Supreme Court ruling barring discrimination against LGBT workers.
In a letter Wednesday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr, the 116 members urged the Pentagon to immediately change its transgender policy and the Justice Department to negotiate an end to lawsuits against the ban.
“Prolonging the litigation in the face of almost certain defeat, and thereby prolonging the existing policy, will continue to inflict serious harm on transgender people seeking to serve our country and on those already serving while living in the shadows, enduring the dignitary harm of being told they’re a burden,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was led by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).
“This policy is an attack on transgender service members who are risking their lives to serve our country, and it should be reversed immediately,” they added.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids employment discrimination on the basis of “sex,” applies to LGBT people.
The ruling did not apply to the military, which courts have previously ruled is exempt from Title VII. But opponents of the Trump administration’s transgender military ban are hopeful it gives them new ammunition in their lawsuits.
The policy, which took effect in April 2019, says transgender people must serve as their biological sex or else get a waiver. The military has granted only one such waiver so far.
The Pentagon argues the policy is not a ban since it allows for waivers and because those who came out under the Obama administration’s policy, which allowed open transgender service, can continue serving openly.
But transgender service members and their advocates argue it effectively is a ban akin to the defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibited open service by gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.
At least four lawsuits are now challenging the policy, though they hinge on the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause, not Title VII as was at issue in the Supreme Court ruling.
But in their letter, the lawmakers argued the Supreme Court ruling will “provide significant weight” to the lawsuits.
“The Ninth Circuit court had already ruled in Karnoski v. Trump that heightened scrutiny applies to anti-transgender discrimination,” the lawmakers wrote, referring to one of the lawsuits against the transgender military ban. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock will provide significant weight to those already substantial claims: the principle announced — that gender-identity discrimination is discrimination ‘because of … sex’ — applies equally to claims under the Constitution.”