In a 5-4 decision on Tuesday, the Supreme Court overturned a court injunction on Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces. The ruling did not establish whether the ban was constitutional or not, only that the Department of Defense does not need to stop the practice while its legality is decided by the courts.
That’s the decision on paper — in practice, according to Gabriel Arkles, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, there is still another injunction against the ban because of Stone v. Trump, which is currently going through an appeals court in Maryland.
“Trump’s policy is so transparently unjustified and just a matter of anti-trans animus,” Arkles said. “That was clearly the wrong decision, but it’s not the end of the day. We’re confident that we’ll ultimately be able to win in this case, it’s just incredibly unfortunate that the Supreme Court has sent a signal that it’s OK to completely disrupt service members’ lives in the meantime.”
“There’s no real policy argument to be made against [allowing transgender people to serve in the military] other than the fact that opponents think trans people are icky and wrong for existing,” wrote Parker Molloy, editor-at-large for Media Matters on Twitter. “That’s really what it comes down to.”
On paper, transgender people enjoy significantly more protections from New York than they do from the federal government–the NYPD established guidance for officers six years ago prohibiting police from charging transgender people with a crime for having differing preferred and legal names. In practice, Linda Dominguez, a Latinx transgender activist, found herself prosecuted for existing while transgender.
In April of 2018, Dominguez was arrested and, when asked her name, gave both her birth name and the name she had legally changed hers to that reflected her gender identity. In the lawsuit against the NYPD she and the NY Civil Liberties Union filed on Tuesday, she reports that the NYPD charged her with false personation, or “knowingly misrepresent[ing] his or her actual name,” in violation of the six-year-old policy.
“The NYPD must take responsibility for the culture of discrimination that pervades the department,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “Being transgender is not a crime.”
According to Dominguez, her story is not a fluke.
“I’ve heard from a lot of other trans people who experience things like this or even worse,” she said, through a translator. “I know that we are more vulnerable, that Latinx people are more vulnerable and more affected by this kind of police behavior.”
A 2017 report by the NYC Department of Investigation found that current NYPD officers were not informed or trained to respect the updated policy, which at the time was half a decade old.
“They’ve known about it for a long time,” added Arkles.
As Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision reflects, transgender people cannot always expect the judicial system to protect their rights, something that Dominguez says people can change from below.
“I want the police to change the way they treat us, so that the next generation doesn’t experience this,” she said. “People need to recognize the role that we play in society and to stop looking at us with ojos malos.“
“We have led the way on women’s rights like no other state,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared at a press conference on the State Senate’s Reproductive Health Act, which was passed on Tuesday. “Period.”