In 2016, the United States of America saw two huge shifts in policy at a federal level aimed at guaranteeing the civil rights of transgender Americans. First, the Departments of Education and Justice came together to release guidance for educators around providing an environment in which transgender students can learn free from sex-based discrimination as described in Title IX.
Prior to this guidance, Title IX’s protections for students based on sex were rarely, if ever, applied to people in the transgender community. About a month later, former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter lifted the long-standing ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, stating “we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.” The lifting of this ban followed an extensive, year-long review of the policy and came about 5 years after the formal end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which excluded gays and lesbians from serving openly.
These victories have been short lived. Under guidance from the White House, the Departments of Justice and Education have withdrawn their guidelines for schools and the Pentagon has begun to implement a new ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. Notably, Donald Trump attributed the military ban to “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” Notions of cost and disruption have both been debunked by multiple studies and sources. These attacks on the transgender community are quickly landing the federal government in court.
Lambda Legal has recently filed a lawsuit against the Departments of Education and Justice. This suit demands the release of documents related to the withdrawal of these guidelines. Lambda requested a variety of documents through the Freedom of Information Act that would help them to understand why this guidance was withdrawn and how the departments have been instructed to handle allegations of discrimination. The departments have failed to comply with these requests. These documents may aid future legislative efforts to enact nondiscrimination policy for transgender students.
On August 28th, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union both filed suit against President Trump and his administration in an attempt to block the ban. The lawsuits both allege that this ban violates trans people’s first amendment rights to free speech, their fifth amendment rights to due process under the law, and their fourteenth amendment rights to equal protection under the law. The ACLU’s lawsuit states that "Without input from the Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff, and without any deliberative process, President Trump cast aside the rigorous, evidence-based policy of the Open Service Directive, and replaced it with discredited myths and stereotypes, uninformed speculation, and animus against people who are transgender."
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- For information or resources about supporting trans people locally, contact TransOhio
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