New Jersey Joins Multi-State Coalition in Challenging Federal Ban on Transgender Military Service

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today that New Jersey has joined a multi-state coalition that is challenging the federal government’s proposed ban on military service by transgender individuals with an amicus filing in a federal lawsuit that seeks to have the ban declared illegal.

The amicus brief, filed with the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Washington at Seattle, argues that banning transgender individuals serving in the military is unconstitutional, irrational, harmful to the nation’s armed forces and discriminatory against the transgender community.

The federal case – Ryan Karnoski v. Trump – was brought by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and OutServe-SLDN, and includes the State of Washington as a plaintiff-intervenor. The multi-state coalition of Attorneys General – including lead state Massachusetts, New Jersey, 13 other states and the District of Columbia – has joined as amicus or “friend of the court,” and seeks to have the proposed transgender ban struck down as unlawfully discriminatory.

“The President’s ban doesn’t just demean our armed forces, including the many brave transgender soldiers who have served openly and with great distinction. The President’s ban also violates the Constitution. As our amicus brief makes plain, we believe that the full participation of transgender persons strengthens both our military and our nation,” said Attorney General Grewal.

“We cannot allow President Trump’s policies to keep brave, patriotic Americans from serving in our military,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “I am proud to support Attorney General Grewal and other states to oppose this discriminatory and unconstitutional ban. Discrimination is always unacceptable and it has no place in our military.”

The multi-state brief joined by New Jersey notes that transgender individuals volunteer to serve in the armed forces at approximately twice the rate of adults in the general population, and that approximately 150,000 veterans, active-duty service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserves identify as transgender.

In the brief, the states point out that there is no evidence to support the suggestion that transgender service has disrupted military readiness, operational effectiveness, or morale. To the contrary, the brief asserts, anecdotal accounts have indicated that the military’s pre-ban policies of inclusion “were quickly beginning to have a positive effect, as capable and well-qualified individuals who were already serving finally were able to do so authentically.”

Additionally, the participating Attorneys General assert, they strongly support the rights of transgender people to live with dignity, to be free from discrimination, and to participate fully and equally in all aspects of civic life, and argue that these interests are all best served by allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military.

“Here in New Jersey – through our Law Against Discrimination (LAD) – we have prohibited employers, housing providers, and places of public accommodation from discriminating against transgender individuals for more than a decade,” Attorney General Grewal said. “We firmly believe that those who are selfless enough, and brave enough, to choose military service on behalf of our nation should be thanked for it, not persecuted by their own federal government.”

In July 2017, President Trump announced on Twitter that, “The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” There followed a formal Memorandum, in August 2017, directing the military to continue the ban on enlistment by transgender individuals.

The federal lawsuit to which New Jersey has become amicus was filed on August 28, 2017 on behalf of two individuals who seek to join the military and multiple others, including: one current service member who seeks appointment as an officer; the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization; and Gender Justice League, a gender and sexuality civil and human rights organization, headquartered in Seattle.

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