homepage news

California AG Becerra petitions to join federal trans military ban lawsuit

By Karen Ocamb

November 09, 2017

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a longtime LGBT ally, filed a petition in federal court Wednesday asking that California be allowed to intervene as a party plaintiff in the federal lawsuit challenging President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

The lawsuit, Stockman v. Trump, was filed Sept. 5 by Equality California and seven individual plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. They are being represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and Latham & Watkins LLP, the law firm from which EQCA executive director Rick Zbur retired as its first openly gay partner before joining equality California.

A hearing in Stockman v. Trump, which seeks to defend the rights of transgender individuals seeking to join, or currently serving openly in, the U.S. military, is scheduled for Nov. 20.

“We must honor the service and sacrifice of all members of our military by fighting for them when their rights are attacked,” Becerra said in a press release. “California will not allow President Trump’s illegal, discriminatory and un-American actions to harm our people or our military. Marginalizing transgender service members or any transgender American who wishes to serve our country faithfully and courageously will not occur on our watch.”

California has a long history of top politicians standing up for LGBT rights, including Gov. Jerry Brown appointing the first two openly gay judges in the nation, Steven Lachs in 1979 and Rand Schrader in 1980. As both Attorney General and later as governor, Brown refused to defend anti-gay marriage Prop 8 in court, as did Attorney General Kamala Harris. Becerra also has a long history of reaching out to the LGBT community since at least 1990 when he ran for the State Assembly.

California has the most active duty and reserve military than any other state  – more than 130,000 active duty military personnel and more than 56,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves. According to an NCLR press release:

“Attorney General Becerra’s motion to intervene is based on several arguments, including that implementing Trump’s transgender military ban would:

· Impede the California National Guard’s ability to recruit and retain members that would protect the State’s natural resources in times of need, · Force California to violate anti-discrimination laws and discriminate against its own residents in staffing the California National Guard, and · Threaten the State’s ability to safeguard public institutions of higher learning from discrimination in ROTC programs.

The National Guard has been deployed more than 40,000 times since September 11, 2001, and there are currently 18,000 service members in the California National Guard. The Governor of California is the Commander-in-Chief of the California National Guard and relies on it in times of state emergencies, such as the recent massive wildfires across wine country. In 2014, The Williams Institute estimated that 6,700 transgender Americans were serving in the National Guard across the 50 states and found that transgender Americans were twice as likely to be serving or have served in our nation’s military.”

In addition to requesting intervention as a co-plaintiff in Stockman v Trump, Becerra has joined friend-of-the-court briefs in this case and in lawsuits in Maryland and in the District of Columbia. In the latter case, a judge in the DC District Court issued a preliminary injunction against the ban, pending a final outcome in that case, Doe v. Trump.

“Having the support of California’s Attorney General is invaluable in our fight against this administration’s reckless and dangerous actions,” said Zbur. “This ban is having untold, negative impacts on our transgender service members and those who have taken steps to join the military, and having this support from California’s chief law enforcement official shows us that our state will fight alongside us for justice and equality.”

“The State of California recognizes that Trump’s discriminatory ban harms not only transgender service members and our military, but also those who rely on our National Guard for emergency assistance. This point is particularly critical in California, which has been facing unprecedented wildfire devastation. We need to embrace every qualified person who is willing to serve, not turn people away simply for being transgender,” said Shannon Minter, legal director at NCLR, which is based in San Francisco.

“For the Attorney General to take this step sends a powerful message about the gravity of the harm caused by this ban,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project Director. “We should be embracing the contributions of dedicated, courageous Americans who are serving and want to serve. Blocking qualified transgender Americans from serving makes our military weaker and our nation less safe and less fair.”

The full motion is here.