On Tuesday, the Supreme Court revived President Donald Trump’s plan to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court lifted two lower court rulings that had blocked the ban from going into effect on constitutional grounds. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. A third injunction remains in place for now. We speak to Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU, which is challenging the Trump administration’s ban on servicemembers who are transgender.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court revived President Donald Trump’s plan to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court lifted lower court rulings that had blocked the ban from going into effect on constitutional grounds. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.
Trump first announced the ban in 2017, but two lower court injunctions blocked it. The rule, which affects most transgender people, will be permitted to go into effect as the ongoing lawsuits make their way up to the Supreme Court. While the court lifted the two injunctions, it did not rule on the legality of the ban itself.
The Pentagon praised the court ruling, stating, “DOD’s proposed policy is not a ban on service by transgender persons. … DOD’s proposed policy is based on professional military judgment and will ensure that the U.S. armed forces remain the most lethal and combat-effective fighting force in the world,” they said.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Chase Strangio. Chase is staff attorney at the ACLU, which is challenging the Trump administration’s ban on servicemembers who are transgender. Chase Strangio, a trans lawyer himself.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about this decision.
CHASE STRANGIO: Yeah. So, first, I just want to acknowledge how heartbreaking it is to once again have the Supreme Court essentially green-light a patently cruel and discriminatory policy coming out of the Trump administration. So this is obviously disappointing and very scary for trans servicemembers, people wanting to serve in the trans community across the country.
But a few important clarifications. First, there is still an injunction in place. So, there’s one nationwide injunction that the Supreme Court did not have before it. So the policy cannot immediately go into effect, despite initial reports.
And then, the other thing that’s important to clarify is that the government is out, in their statements, saying things like “This isn’t a ban on transgender people serving.” And it’s important to really break that down, because what they’re saying is that, transgender people, you can serve, as long as you are completely comfortable serving in your assigned sex at birth, that you don’t transition, that you never have transitioned, and that you don’t say that you’re trans. That is definitionally a ban on transgender people serving. And so, to suggest that it’s not is really part of this administration’s effort to say, “We’ll be fine with you if you’re trans, as long as you’re not trans.”
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, is this just reviving “don’t ask, don’t tell” for trans people?
CHASE STRANGIO: Yeah, it’s essentially “don’t ask, don’t tell” 2.0, but even worse, in that they’re essentially suggesting, as we’ve seen across this administration, that trans people don’t exist at all, full stop, that you can actually somehow suppress your transness and live comfortably in your assigned sex at birth. And this really is the goal of this administration. So we absolutely cannot let them get away with the statements like the ones they’re making.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, the lead plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s ban on servicemembers who are transgender. Brock has served over a decade in the U.S. Navy, including a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan.
BROCK STONE: Being able to serve openly as a trans servicemember has been very liberating. It’s kind of a big weight off my chest, honestly, because I felt kind of like I had to hide before. And, you know, one of the big parts of the Navy they really hammer into you is, you know, honor and courage. And I wanted to be authentically myself. I didn’t want to have to hide or worry about somebody seeing the wrong post on Facebook, when, you know, that was just a distraction from my job and from my duties. The Navy is not just a job to me. The Navy has kind of been my extended family. And it’s been a place for me, and it’s been an opportunity for me to give to people and interact with people and be part of something.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone. He is the lead plaintiff in your case. Talk about him, Chase.
CHASE STRANGIO: Yeah, Brock, like so many other transgender people who have been serving their country for many years, he’s someone who lived in the shadows in his service and had to not serve openly, and then came out of the shadows when the Carter policy was first announced in 2016 under President Obama. And then, here we are a few years later, and he’s now at risk of losing his entire career and everything that he’s worked for, because of what started as a series of impulsive tweets by the president in 2017, surprising, you know, not only the country, not only trans servicemembers, but the secretary of defense at the time. So, there has never been a military justification offered for this ban. There is absolutely no question it is driven by animus and discrimination. And we’re going to keep fighting for people like Brock and our clients who have been working hard to enlist in the military.
And I want to say something, too, to a lot of people who I’ve been in community with for a long time, who have very justifiable concerns about the actions of our U.S. military and don’t support the military for many reasons. This isn’t a question about whether or not we support the United States military policy. This is a labor issue. This is a survival issue. This is a question about whether the largest employer in our country can tell transgender people that they are not welcome, that they cannot actively be who they are and retain their employment. So we should be incredibly concerned not only about what this means for trans people, for our employment, for our healthcare, for our survival, in absolutely every context, but also whether or not we’re going to accept a government policy that’s premised on the idea that we don’t exist, and that if we do exist, we should not be protected in any way.