SCOTUS ruling could impact more than 15,000 transgender adults currently serving in the US military

For Immediate Release
January 22, 2019

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Williams Institute
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The Supreme Court announced today that it would temporarily allow the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military to go into effect while legal challenges are decided in federal courts.

According to research from the Williams Institute, an estimated 15,500 transgender adults are serving in the US military, including 8,800 on active duty and 6,700 in the National Guard or Reserves. In addition, there are over 130,000 transgender veterans.

The Department of Defense announced in March a policy to prevent transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, citing risk to military effectiveness and lethality and unit cohesion. Legal challenges to the policy are currently pending in lower federal courts.

“This ban puts the wellbeing and livelihood of transgender service members at risk,” said Jocelyn Samuels, executive director of the Williams Institute. “Furthermore, substantial research and the experiences of other countries have shown that transgender service members do not pose a risk to military effectiveness and lethality or to unit cohesion. So there is no factual basis for the ban.”

A 2018 Williams Institute study found that transgender veterans differed from cisgender veterans only in their likelihood to have at least one disability–a finding that suggests that protocols determining who can enter military service have been working equally well over the years for transgender and cisgender individuals alike.

In terms of unit cohesion, preliminary qualitative data from the Military Acceptance Project, a $1.8 million study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense focused on understanding integration of LGBT people into the military, finds that transgender service members have an intense commitment to their country and the U.S. military. In addition, many have experienced acceptance from their peers and superiors.

“The idea that transgender service members are disruptive is unfounded,” says Ian W. Holloway, visiting scholar at the Williams Institute and co-principal investigator of the Military Acceptance Project.

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The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

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