Washington first state to win injunction of Trump transgender military ban
SEATTLE — A federal judge today granted a preliminary injunction against President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. The ruling came as part of a challenge brought by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, nine individual plaintiffs and three organizations.
“The Court finds that the policy prohibiting openly transgender individuals from serving in the military is likely unconstitutional,” the court wrote.
Further, the court found that the ban irreparably harms Washington’s interest in “maintaining and enforcing its anti-discrimination laws, protecting its residents from discrimination, and ensuring that employment and advancement opportunities are not unlawfully restricted based on transgender status.”
Washington is the first state to win such a measure. Previously, two federal judges, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis, issued injunctions in two cases brought by private plaintiffs challenging the transgender military ban.
“Today’s ruling is a major victory for the thousands of transgender service members who serve their country with honor and distinction,” Ferguson said. “Barring transgender service members from serving based on anything other than their ability and conduct is wrong.”
"All of us owe a debt of gratitude for every American who answers the call of service in our armed forces, and we are grateful for today’s decision which affirms everyone who is able and willing can answer that call regardless of color, religion, orientation, birth place or gender,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. "While this president can attempt the practice of division, our nation’s service members and the sacrifices they and their families make demonstrate the power of America standing together as one."
Gov. Inslee’s Chief of Staff David Postman submitted a declaration in support of Ferguson’s motion focused on the Governor’s relationship with the Washington National Guard.
In granting a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that without an injunction, plaintiffs would be irreparably harmed. Judge Pechman found the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of the case – meaning she expects the court will ultimately conclude the Trump Administration acted unlawfully when it banned transgender individuals from serving their country in the military. As a result of her decision, President Trump’s transgender military ban is blocked while the case moves forward.
In August, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed a lawsuit on behalf of several transgender individuals who are currently serving or want to serve in the military.
In Washington’s motion to intervene in that lawsuit, granted Nov. 14, Ferguson argued that the ban “constitutes undisguised sex and gender identity discrimination that serves no legitimate purpose and its implementation will have significant, damaging impacts on the State of Washington and its residents.”
Washington is home to approximately 60,000 active-duty military, reserve and National Guard members. The Washington National Guard is an integral part of Washington’s emergency preparedness and disaster recovery planning. The President’s order would apply to the Washington National Guard in addition to active-duty military.
Today’s decision represents another important victory against unlawful Trump Administration policies. So far in 2017, Washington has filed 18 lawsuits against the federal government, either alone or as part of a multistate coalition. Five of those cases have resolved, and the Washington Attorney General’s Office has won all five. Today’s ruling represents another success in a major case against the Trump Administration. The Administration may appeal.
Ferguson has been an advocate for transgender rights. He filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting transgender student Gavin Grimm, urged a federal court to reject efforts to block the government’s ability to protect the civil rights of transgender people, and led a multistate coalition urging the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide transgender veterans access to health care.
In July, Ferguson and 18 attorneys general sent a letter calling on members of the U.S. Armed Services Committee to stand with transgender military service members following President Trump’s announcement of the new policy via Twitter.
Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit Chief Colleen Melody and Assistant Attorney General La Rond Baker are handling the case for the state.
Ferguson created the Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit in 2015 to protect the rights of all Washington residents by enforcing state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Ferguson named the unit for Wing Luke, who served as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Washington in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went on to become the first person of color elected to the Seattle City Council and the first Asian-American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest.
Below are summaries of Washington’s previous five legal victories against the Trump Administration. More information on federal litigation is available here.
Washington v. Trump (first travel ban)
Washington was the first state to challenge President Trump’s first executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. The state has continued to challenge subsequent iterations of the ban, which separated families, divided employers from employees and prohibited students and professors from resuming studies in the United States.
When Washington challenged the constitutionality and legality of the travel ban on Jan. 30, individuals with green cards and valid visas were subject to the travel ban and turned away at airports.
Judge James Robart, appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled in Washington’s favor on Feb. 3, granting a nationwide temporary restraining order. On Feb. 9, in a unanimous opinion, a panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the injunction. The Trump Administration chose not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, rescinded the executive order, and paid Washington’s costs related to the appeal.
New York v. Perry (energy efficiency standards)
On March 31, Washington and a multistate coalition of attorneys general challenged the Trump Administration’s unlawful delay in implementing new energy efficiency rules for ceiling fans. After the states filed the lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Energy conceded and announced that the rules would go into effect.
The energy efficiency rules are estimated to reduce electrical consumption by about 200 billion kilowatt hours over the next three decades, saving consumers anywhere from $4.5 billion to $12.1 billion in energy costs.
Clean Air Council, et al. v. EPA (new oil and gas facilities)
On June 20, 15 state attorneys general, including Washington, intervened in a lawsuit against the EPA challenging delays in implementing a rule regulating emissions from new or modified oil and gas facilities. The rule provides important protections for Washington’s residents against the release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that has more than 80 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
On July 3, the court ruled in favor of Washington state, finding that the EPA had violated the Clean Air Act.
New York v. EPA (ground-level ozone standards)
In July, 15 states, including Washington, filed suit against the EPA after Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his decision to delay designating which areas of the country met the new ground-level ozone standards. The next day, Pruitt reversed course and withdrew the decision to delay.
Ground-level ozone causes asthma and other respiratory problems. The EPA determined a new standard, adopted in 2015, would have public health benefits worth an estimated $2.9 billion to $5.9 billion.
California, et al. v. U.S. Department of Transportation (vehicle emissions rule)
On Sept. 20, Washington and eight other states filed a lawsuit after the Federal Highway Administration unlawfully suspended an important rule aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. The rule requires states to measure the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by on-road vehicles on the national highway system and to set targets for reducing those emissions.
The Federal Highway Administration has since conceded and announced the rules would immediately go into effect.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org