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Federal Court Again Refuses to Let Trans Military Ban Take Effect

Karnoski plaintiffs

The Trump administration keeps trying and failing to persuade judges to unblock the ban.

Pictured, from left: Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN clients Drew Layne, Staff Sgt. Cathrine "Katie" Schmid, Petty Officer Second Class Phillip Stephens, and Ryan Karnoski.

A federal court in Washington State has turned down yet another attempt by Donald Trump's administration to put the transgender military ban into effect.

Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington today denied the administration's request to lift her block of the ban, known in legal language as a "stay pending appeal."

Pechman, hearing the case Karnoski v. Trump, in December issued a preliminary injunction keeping the ban from going into effect while the case proceeds through the courts. Three other federal judges have done the same in three other cases. In March the administration issued an implementation plan for the ban and claimed it constituted a new policy, not the one, announced by Trump on Twitter last July, that Pechman had blocked. She disagreed and ruled in April that the injunction would stand. The Trump administration appealed that ruling for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and again asked Pechman to lift the injunction, but today she declined to do so.

"The Court finds that Defendants have not made a 'strong showing' that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their appeal," she wrote. She also noted that in order to let the ban go into effect, the other courts' injunctions would have to be lifted as well. She went on to say that the administration has not shown it would suffer irreparable harm if the ban remained blocked, but that current and aspiring transgender service members would be hurt if it went into effect.

"The status quo shall remain 'steady as she goes,' and the preliminary injunction shall remain in full force and effect nationwide," Pechnan wrote.

Karnoski v. Trump,filed last August,is scheduled to go to trial next April. The plaintiffs are six transgender people currently serving in the military, three who seek to enlist, and three organizations - the Human Rights Campaign, the Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partner Association. They are represented by attorneys from Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN. The state of Washington has joined the suit as well.

"Tomorrow, I will put on the uniform of U.S. Army and do my duty, as I did today and yesterday, and have done for more than 13 years," said one of the plaintiffs, Staff Sgt. Katie Schmid, in a Lambda Legal press release. "Being transgender has no impact on my ability to perform my duties. I'm grateful that the court to date has recognized the value in our service, and I look forward to the day when we can put this argument behind us and focus on what's really important -- the accomplishment of our mission, and the welfare of our service members."

"Yet again, the Trump Administration has tried to implement and expedite discrimination, and yet again, the court has said no," added Lambda Legal senior attorney Peter Renn. "You would think the administration would get tired of all the losing, and more importantly, would read the writing on the wall and abandon this discriminatory and harmful scheme to prevent brave and qualified transgender people from serving their country."

"The District Court's rulings have been consistent and unequivocal: the ban on transgender military service is discrimination, no matter how it's phrased and no matter the myriad ways the administration has tried to cloak its intent," said OutServe-SLDN legal director Peter Perkowski said. "The administration has failed to come up with any post hoc rationale for the president's ill-conceived tweets of last July that justifies their blatant discriminatory nature, and we are confident it never will."

"The judge's decision sends one more powerful signal that the Trump-Pence administration has an uphill battle ahead of them in their shameful attempt to justify a ban on qualified, patriotic transgender Americans," said HRC national press secretary Sarah McBride. "Truly, there is no valid justification for such unpatriotic, unconstitutional discrimination. We are encouraged by this decision and remain hopeful for a victory in this case on behalf of our brave transgender service members and the qualified recruits who simply want to serve their country."

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