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Pentagon Must Show Trans Ban Documents

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include six active-duty military members and two potential enlistees. (Bumble Dee/Adobe Stock)
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include six active-duty military members and two potential enlistees. (Bumble Dee/Adobe Stock)
December 20, 2019

New York - The Pentagon can't hide documents it relied upon to justify its ban on transgender people serving openly in the military.

That's the ruling in a federal lawsuit challenging the ban.

For the past 18 months, lawyers for the individual plaintiffs and groups that filed the suit have sought documents on the research and reasoning behind the ban that took effect last April.

Carl Charles, staff attorney with Lambda Legal - one of the organizations litigating the case, says the documents are necessary to show what, if any, factual basis the Pentagon had for enacting the ban that was initiated by a presidential tweet.

"Finally, we can see what we suspect to be true," says Charles. "Which is that the government relied on animus in creating this ban on open transgender service, rather than any kind of science or reasoned evidence."

The Defense Department has said the documents are irrelevant and that exposing them would hinder future discussions between low-level officials and their superiors - claims the court rejected.

Charles points out that the privilege the government was claiming as justification for withholding the documents can easily be preserved.

"There are court mechanisms available to us to protect these documents," says Charles. "And the court ruled in its order that these documents will be [for] 'attorney's eyes only.' Which they could have been designated from the beginning."

He adds that documents like those requested in this lawsuit typically are exchanged without argument in most litigation.

Charles says once the documents they've been fighting for are turned over, the case will be able to move forward.

"We'll be able to identify witnesses, we will be able to strengthen our claims in this case, and we'll actually be able to rely upon the evidence that we find in a trial, which is likely to happen in the near future," says Charles.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY