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Defending Transgender Service Members: Karnoski v. Trump

Defending Transgender Service Members: Karnoski v. Trump


Watch two members of the litigation team in Karnoski v. Trump, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s ban on military service by transgender individuals, as they discuss practice points in representing service members and how to sue the federal government. They are also joined by Staff Sergeant Katie Schmid, a fifteen-year active service member of the U.S. Army, who is a plaintiff in this case.

On July 26, 2017 via Twitter, former President Trump announced, “The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” This tweet was followed a formal memorandum directing the military to continue the ban on enlistment by those they learn are transgender.

On August 28, 2017, Lambda Legal and Modern Military Association of America a federal lawsuit on behalf of individuals who seek to join the military and current service members, and organizational plaintiffs.

The procedural history of the case spans from the district court to the circuit court and the United States Supreme Court. The district court granted plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the U.S. military to immediately halt the ban. The government filed a motion to stay the preliminary injunction which the district court denied, and then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Court of Appeals denied the motion for a stay pending appeal. The Ninth Circuit then heard argument on why the preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the discriminatory ban should not be dissolved. 

The Department of Justice petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the three district court rulings (including the decision in Karnoski) that had kept the Trump administration from implementing its discriminatory plan before the Court of Appeals issued its ruling. In January 2019, SCOTUS granted stays of the preliminary injunctions. These stays caused serious and irreparable harm without a full opportunity to debate the merits in full view of the public. What have we learned about SCOTUS’s shadow docket as it relates to stays?

The Ninth Circuit held that intermediate scrutiny applies, and that the policy discriminates on the basis of transgender status on its face. Karnoski v. Trump, 926 F.3d 1180 (9th Cir. 2019). What is the impact of this decision on cases concerning discrimination against transgender people?

And throughout this, the litigation team has had to navigate several discovery issues. 

On January 25, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform. In part the Executive Order stated:

It is my conviction as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces that gender identity should not be a bar to military service. Moreover, there is substantial evidence that allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military does not have any meaningful negative impact on the Armed Forces.

Speakers will discuss the impact of the Executive Order on transgender service members.


Sasha Buchert, Esq., Lambda Legal

Richard Saenz, Esq., Lambda Legal

Staff Sergeant Katie Schmid, U.S. Army

Carl Charles, Esq., Lambda Legal

Non-Member Price: $100.00
Published Date:
  • April 8, 2021
  • Online On-Demand
Product Code:
  • VKN21
Areas Of Professional Practice Credit(s):
  • 1.0
Total Credit(s):
  • 1.0