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Karnoski v. Trump

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

December 11, 2017

RYAN KARNOSKI, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS, ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          MARSHA J. PECHMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Ryan Karnoski, et al.'s Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Dkt. No. 32) and Defendants Donald J. Trump, et al.'s Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 69). Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of Defendant President Donald J. Trump's Presidential Memorandum excluding transgender individuals from the military. Defendants respond that Plaintiffs lack standing, that their claims are neither properly plead nor ripe for review, and that they are not entitled to injunctive relief. Having reviewed the Motions (Dkt. Nos. 32, 69), the Responses (Dkt. Nos. 69, 84), the Replies (Dkt. Nos. 84, 90), and all related papers, and having considered the arguments made in proceedings before the Court, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

         ORDER SUMMARY

         On July 26, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced on Twitter that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” A Presidential Memorandum followed, directing the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to “return” to the military's policy authorizing the discharge of openly transgender service members (the “Retention Directive”); to prohibit the accession (bringing into service) of openly transgender individuals (the “Accession Directive”); and to prohibit the funding of certain surgical procedures for transgender service members (the “Medical Care Directive”). Plaintiffs filed this action challenging the constitutionality of the policy prohibiting military service by openly transgender individuals. Plaintiffs contend the policy violates their equal protection and due process rights and their rights under the First Amendment. Plaintiffs include transgender individuals currently serving in the military and seeking to join the military; the Human Rights Campaign, the Gender Justice League, and the American Military Partner Association; and the State of Washington. Plaintiffs have moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent implementation of the policy set forth in the Presidential Memorandum, and Defendants have moved to dismiss.

         The Court finds that Plaintiffs have standing to bring this action, and that their claims for violation of equal protection, substantive due process, and the First Amendment are properly plead and ripe for resolution. The Court finds that Plaintiffs' claim for violation of procedural due process is defective. The Court finds that the policy prohibiting openly transgender individuals from serving in the military is likely unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Presidential Memorandum and Interim Guidance

         On July 26, 2017, President Donald J. Trump announced on Twitter that the United States government will no longer allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military. (Dkt. No. 34, Ex. 6.) President Trump's announcement read as follows:

         (Image Omitted.)

         Thereafter, President Trump issued a memorandum (the “Presidential Memorandum”) directing the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to “return” to the military's policy authorizing the discharge of openly transgender service members (the “Retention Directive”); to prohibit the accession (bringing into service) of openly transgender individuals (the “Accession Directive”); and to prohibit the funding of certain surgical procedures for transgender service members (the “Medical Care Directive”). (Id. at §§ 1-3.) The Accession Directive takes effect on January 1, 2018; the Retention and Medical Care Directives take effect on March 23, 2018. (Id. at § 3.)

         On September 14, 2017, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis issued a memorandum providing interim guidance to the military (the “Interim Guidance”). (Dkt. No. 69, Ex. 1.) The Interim Guidance identified the intent of the Department of Defense (“DoD”) to “carry out the President's policy and directives” and to identify “a plan to implement the policy and directives in the Presidential Memorandum.” (Id. at 2.) The Interim Guidance explained that transgender individuals would be prohibited from accession effective immediately. (Id. at 3.)

         II. Policy on Transgender Service Members Prior to July 26, 2017

         Prior to President Trump's announcement, the military concluded that transgender individuals should be permitted to serve openly and was in the process of implementing a policy to this effect (the “June 2016 Policy”). (Dkt. Nos. 32 at 9-10; 46 at ¶¶ 8-27; 48 at ¶¶ 8-36, Ex. C.) The June 2016 Policy was preceded by extensive research, including an independent study to evaluate the implications of military service by transgender individuals. (Dkt. Nos. 30 at ¶¶ 159-162; 32 at 9-10; 46 at ¶ 11.) This study concluded that allowing transgender individuals to serve would not negatively impact military effectiveness, readiness, or unit cohesion, and that the costs of providing transgender service members with transition-related healthcare would be “exceedingly small” compared with DoD's overall healthcare expenditures. (Dkt. No. 32 at 30; 46 at ¶¶ 15-20.) After consulting with medical experts, personnel experts, readiness experts, commanders whose units included transgender service members, and others, the working group concluded that transgender individuals should be allowed to serve openly. (Dkt. Nos. 30 at ¶ 161; 46 at ¶ 10.) The Secretary of Defense issued a directive-type memorandum on June 30, 2016 affirming that “service in the United States military should be open to all who can meet the rigorous standards for military service and readiness, ” including transgender individuals. (Dkt. No. 48, Ex. C.) The memorandum established procedures for accession, retention, in-service transition, and medical coverage, and provided that “[e]ffective immediately, no otherwise qualified Service member may be involuntarily separated, discharged or denied reenlistment or continuation of service, solely on the basis of their gender identity.” (Id.) Relying upon the June 2016 Policy, transgender service members disclosed their transgender status to the military and were serving openly at the time of President Trump's announcement. (See Dkt. Nos. 30 at ¶¶ 101-102, 112-114; 48 at ¶ 37.)

         III. Plaintiffs Challenge to the Presidential Memorandum

         Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the policy prohibiting military service by openly transgender individuals and seek declaratory and injunctive relief.[1] (Dkt. No. 30 at 39.) Plaintiffs contend the policy violates their equal protection and due process rights, and their rights under the First Amendment. (Id. at ¶¶ 214-238.)

         Plaintiffs include nine individuals (the “Individual Plaintiffs”), three organizations (the “Organizational Plaintiffs”), and Washington State. (See id. at ¶¶ 7-18; Dkt. No. 101.) Plaintiffs Ryan Karnoski, D.L., and Connor Callahan seek to pursue a military career, and contend that the policy set forth in the Presidential Memorandum forecloses this opportunity. (Dkt. No. 30 at ¶¶ 38-49, 64-73, 130-139.) Plaintiffs Staff Sergeant Cathrine Schmid, Chief Warrant Officer Lindsey Muller, Petty Officer First Class Terece Lewis, Petty Officer Second Class Phillip Stephens, and Petty Officer Second Class Megan Winters currently serve openly in the military. (Id. at ¶¶ 50-63, 74-120.) Plaintiff Jane Doe currently serves in the military, but does not serve openly. (Id. at ¶¶ 121-129.) The Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”), the Gender Justice League (“GJL”), and the American Military Partner Association (“AMPA”) join as Organizational Plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶¶ 140-145.) After the Individual and Organization Plaintiffs filed this action, Washington State moved to intervene to protect its sovereign and quasi-sovereign interests, which it alleged were harmed by the policy set forth in the Presidential Memorandum. (Dkt. No. 55; see also Dkt. No. 97.) On November 27, 2017, the Court granted Washington State's motion. (Dkt. No. 101.) Washington State now joins in Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction based upon its interests in protecting “the health, and physical and economic well-being of its residents” and “securing residents from the harmful effects of discrimination.” (Id. at 4.) Defendants include President Donald J. Trump, Secretary James N. Mattis, the United States, and the DoD. (Dkt. No. 30 at ¶¶ 19-22.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (See Dkt. No. 69 at 16-22.) The Court finds that Plaintiffs have standing to challenge the Presidential Memorandum and have stated valid claims upon which relief may be granted. However, Plaintiffs have failed to state a valid claim for violation of procedural due process. The Court therefore DENIES Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as to Plaintiffs' equal protection, substantive due process, and First Amendment claims; and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as to Plaintiffs' procedural due process claim.

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         Defendants move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Defendants contend the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction for two reasons: First, they contend Plaintiffs lack standing because they have not suffered injuries in fact. (Id. at 18-20.) Second, they contend Plaintiffs' claims are not ripe for resolution. (Id. at 20-22.) Plaintiffs respond that the Presidential Memorandum gives rise to current harm and credible threats of impending harm sufficient for both standing and ripeness. (See Dkt. No. 84 at 11-27.)

         i. Individual Plaintiffs

         The Court finds that the Individual Plaintiffs have standing to challenge the Presidential Memorandum. To establish standing, Individual Plaintiffs must demonstrate: (1) an “injury in fact”; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of; and (3) that it is likely their injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). “At the preliminary injunction stage, a plaintiff must make a ‘clear showing' of his injury in fact.” Lopez v. Candaele, 630 F.3d 775, 785 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008)). An “injury in fact” exists where there is an invasion of a legally protected ...


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