This week, a transgender Navy officer referred to as Jane Doe filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon regarding the Trump administration’s transgender military ban. Doe is seeking emergency relief to continue to serve in the military on the same terms as her cisgender peers, faced with involuntary discharge on the basis of her gender identity.
Under the Obama administration, the Pentagon lifted the longtime ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. The policy change in June 2016 allowed transgender people already serving in the military to come out, receive medically appropriate health care, and change their gender in Pentagon personnel systems. Additionally, the policy change barred the military from discharging transgender service members on the basis of their gender identity. Lastly, it allowed transgender individuals to join the military openly, starting in January 2018.
The Trump administration’s attempts to prevent transgender troops from serving in the military went into effect in April 2019. The ban prevents transgender people from joining the military openly and hinders any current troops from undergoing gender transitions. The ban allows existing transgender troops who came out under the Obama administration’s policy to continue serving, but under discriminatory conditions.
Lieutenant Doe was commissioned as a naval officer in 2010, and served two extended tours of duty as a surface warfare officer. In June 2019, a military doctor diagnosed her with gender dysphoria, prompting her to come out as transgender, and face involuntary discharge from service. Because Doe came out as transgender after April 2019, she is not protected by the ‘grandfather clause’ included in the ban.
Doe v. Esper will be the first major challenge to the transgender military ban since it went into effect. Transgender rights advocates argue that Doe’s case represents the clear injustice in denying troops from serving on the basis of their gender identity, who are otherwise fit to serve and pose no significant medical costs to the military.
The Hill, 3/18/20; GLAD, 3/18/20; HRC 3/2/20