46 Retired Military Officers and National Security Officials File Brief in Support of Transgender Plaintiffs in Doe v. Trump

List includes former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and former Director of the CIA and the NSA General Michael Hayden

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 15, 2017 – The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed their opposition today to the Trump administration’s request for an emergency stay to prevent transgender people from being able to enlist on January 1. D.C. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied the government’s request on December 11, and the Trump administration then filed an emergency motion for a stay in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. District Judge Kollar-Kotelly noted that Trump administration claims that the January 1 date would cause “irreparable injury” are contrary to what the military itself has said on this issue and undercut by the five weeks it waited to even request this “emergency” stay.

Also today, 46 retired military officers and former national security officials filed an amicus brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of plaintiffs in Doe v. Trump. The list of officers and officials includes former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency General Michael Hayden. The brief notes that it is submitted by those who “appreciate and value military expertise and the need for the judiciary to defer to it” when circumstances require, but states that “this is not a case where such deference is warranted.”

“Military leaders recognize that reversing the military’s carefully considered decision to permit transgender people to serve openly sets a dangerous precedent that weakens the military, endangers our nation’s safety, and undermines the integrity of military policy making,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “The military studied this issue extensively and concluded that permitting transgender people to serve would promote military readiness.  A growing number of former military officials are speaking out against this reckless ban, because they know that allowing every willing and capable individual to serve makes our national defense stronger.”

“This is a classic bait-and-switch,” said GLAD Transgender Rights Project Director Jennifer Levi. “The Trump administration is blocked from taking a reckless, unconstitutional action, so it changed its strategy. Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced its readiness for transgender people to enlist.  The next day, the Defendants in the case claim they need more time. The administration’s arguments are contradicted by the record and by what the military itself has said. There is no reason to bar qualified transgender Americans from enlisting January 1.”

In their opposition, NCLR and GLAD outlined the reasons that delaying the January 1 transgender enlistment date would inflict serious irreparable harm, including:

  • Branding and stigmatizing plaintiffs and other transgender service members as less capable of serving in the military and reducing their stature among peers and officers,
  • Disserving the public interest by allowing an unconstitutional and discriminatory ban to take effect, and
  • Injuring all plaintiffs—those currently serving and those who would enlist—by singling out transgender individuals as a class and degrading the service of all transgender service members.

NCLR and GLAD have been at the center of the legal fight challenging President Trump’s military ban since filing Doe v. Trump, the first of four cases filed against the ban, on August 9The Trump administration lost the first round and appealed Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s October 30 nationwide preliminary injunction to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, one court level below the United States Supreme Court. The preliminary injunction temporarily halts Trump’s ban and requires equal treatment of transgender troops and enlistees while the legal challenge makes its way through the courts.

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. www.GLAD.org

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org