Advocates Hope The Supreme Court’s LGBTQ Ruling Will Help Them Overturn The Military Transgender Ban
Speaker 1: 00:00 Supreme court's recent decision protecting many LGBTQ employees from discrimination doesn't directly affect the military. Still opponents of the Trump administration's ban on transgender service members say they're encouraged by the ruling. Stephanie Colombini reports for the American Homefront project. Speaker 2: 00:20 25 year old Ryan Karnofsky is getting his doctorate degree as a clinical social worker and has wanted to serve as one in the military. For years, he was happy when the Supreme court decided discrimination against gender identity is sex discrimination, which is barred under title seven of the civil rights act. But the moment was bittersweet. Speaker 1: 00:40 I think of employment protections for LGBT Americans. I think of transgender people. And I think of the country's largest employer of transgender people in the United States, military Speaker 2: 00:53 Title seven doesn't apply to the uniform services. So the military can continue to tell Karnofsky he's not allowed to join because he transitioned genders Karnofsky has spent the past three years challenging the Trump administration, and one of four lawsuits that argue its ban on transgender service is unconstitutional. Federal judges agreed. But last year, the Supreme court allowed a revised ban to take effect while the challenges continue Peter per Koski, legal director of the modern military association of America, a co plaintiff. So as the recent title, seven ruling supports their case. Speaker 1: 01:28 Presumably, and I don't think it's a difficult question. Constitutional discrimination based on sex would also include now sexual orientation and gender identity. And that will get us very far along the way of proving our case, Speaker 2: 01:43 But the military, which wouldn't comment for the story claims it's revised policy doesn't discriminate against sex, but rather the medical condition, gender dysphoria, transgender individuals technically can serve, but they have to do so as their birth sex, those unable to because it causes them distress or because they've already taken steps to change their gender pose a threat to unit readiness and deployability in the government size. This angers Karnofsky who says he's worked hard to meet all the other fitness standards required to serve in the military since his surgery, Speaker 1: 02:14 Just to like I am in no way confused about my gender. I'm also not confused about my desire to serve in the military. Speaker 2: 02:24 There's a chance the court could side with the government and say the security concerns justify their decision to bar trans individuals from serving in their preferred gender. But Rachel van landing and professor at Southwestern law school and former judge advocate with the air force says it's unlikely a 2016 study commissioned by the military shows transgender service members have limited impact on medical spending and readiness. And then there's the real life experience of the years when president Obama had lifted the ban, really just the courts will look at the fact that for approximately a 30 month period in which there was no ban, the was doing just fine. There don't seem to be any negative repercussions from that transgender people who served during that time were allowed to remain on active duty. After the new policy went into effect like staff, Sergeant, Katie Schmidt, who's been in the army for 15 years. Speaker 2: 03:13 It's very not normalized still within the military to be an out transgender person. Schmidt is still involved with the lawsuit, but says she's taken on more of an ambassador role trying to educate her comrades, be able to say, yeah, I was only out for eight weeks or every piece of treatment that I received as part of my transition off less than the ankle surgery I had after breaking my ankle and the person across the table from me is saying, I had no idea. A recent UCLA study found broad support for transgender service among active duty military personnel. Rachel Vanlandingham says, well that doesn't affect the legal analysis. It could affect some judges decisions who want to be seen as in touch with the times, trials are scheduled to begin this fall. In the meantime, Ryan Karnofsky is going to keep preparing himself for the military. So if the day comes, when he finally can join the ranks, he'll be ready. I'm Stephanie Colombini in Tampa. Speaker 1: 04:13 The story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.