Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Federal Judge In Seattle Hears Case To Overturn Transgender Ban In Military

Stephen Brashear
AP Photo
Conner Callahan is one of the plaintiffs in suit seeking to overturn ban on transgender people in the military.

A federal judge in Seattle is deciding whether the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people in the military is legal. The state of Washington and human rights groups are urging the court to overturn the ban.The suit was filed following a series of tweets from President Donald Trump last summer announcing the ban on transgender people in the U.S. military. Last Friday, President Trump issued a revised version of the ban.

But attorney Natalie Nardecchia with the civil rights group Lambda Legal, says the president's policy is still indefensible. 

“We’re optimistic the court will ultimately agree that this ban is unconstitutional. It always has been,” Nardecchia said after the court hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

In court, Justice Department attorney Ryan Parker argued that “deference should be given to the military” in these matters.

Judge Marsha Pechman responded that deference had been given to the military when it came to banning blacks, keeping gays and lesbians out the military and keeping women out of combat.

And she said in retrospect that "deference was in error."

Responding to the argument that transgender troops could have medical conditions that prevent them from being deployed, Judge Pechman asked how that was different from women who get pregnant while in the military.

When Parker pointed to a recent report from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listing the reasons for the ban, the judge replied that it wasn’t in the record because it had been filed late.

The judge gave both sides another week to file briefs before she issues a ruling.

After the hearing, plaintiffs, including Conner Callahan, spoke on the steps of the courthouse. Callahan, who is transgender, said he dreamed of serving in the military until President Trump sent out tweets last summer announcing the ban.

"I felt as if the floor had fallen away beneath my feet. I know about sacrifice. I’ve sacrificed a lot to live as my authentic self and I am willing to sacrifice even more for my country,” Callahan said.

He says he already works in law enforcement, in security at a college, and sees nothing about being transgender that makes him less qualified to serve in the military.

Last year, four federal judges around the country, including U.S. District Judge Pechman, temporarily blocked the implementation of the ban on transgender people serving in the military. The latest court actions are seeking a permanent injunction preventing the ban from taking effect.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.