SHAFR has been asked to sign on to a historians' amicus brief in a case in federal court challenging the current administration's ban on transgender people in the military. The brief details the past history of discrimination in the U.S. military on the basis of race, national origin, gender, and homosexuality, and the ways those forms of discrimination have given way to inclusion. An executive summary of that amicus brief--written by historians Ronit Stahl and Jennifer Mittelstadt--is included below.
As per SHAFR's by-laws (amended by a vote of the membership last year), under Article IX, section B, SHAFR may take a public stand on an issue that has received a 2/3 majority vote of Council (with 80% of Council members voting) provided that a simple majority of the full membership of SHAFR approves such a motion (with at least 30% of the membership voting electronically within a period of seven calendar days).
Council approved (11-1 with 2 abstentions) a resolution forwarding a summary of the amicus brief to the membership to make the decision whether SHAFR should sign on to this amicus brief or not. In that discussion, some Council members expressed the opinion that this brief, based in solid historical research and analysis, was the type of amicus brief that a historical organization such as SHAFR could and should support. However, some Council members did not think that the brief argued in a way that showed sufficient direct relevance to SHAFR's own scholarly mission to warrant SHAFR taking a position, regardless of the merits of the case. Some Council members thought it best that membership--rather than Council--make the decision about whether or not SHAFR should sign on.
This email has been sent to all people who were members of SHAFR on October 18th and who had an email connected to their membership. Voting on this issue will close seven (7) calendar days after this email is sent. To reach the "30% of membership voting" provision specified under the by-laws, 366 members will have to cast their vote within the appointed timeframe. A further email will notify members of the result of this vote.
Doe v. Trump Amicus Brief Summary:
A group of historians of the military, national security, and foreign relations proposes to submit an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in support of plaintiffs who challenge the federal government’s recently announced policies to deny or severely limit transgender individuals’ opportunities for military service. The proposed brief demonstrates that the United States military has a long history of excluding from its ranks entire categories of people, with military authorities justifying this discrimination by referring to concerns over unit cohesion and readiness. Yet the military also has a long history of successfully integrating previously excluded categories. Indeed, the historical record consistently shows that, after the military has stopped a discriminatory recruitment practice, its leaders come to champion the formerly excluded groups and to cite their contributions to enhancing military readiness. This pattern has repeated itself for at least four different groups who sought to serve in the armed forces despite official resistance: African-Americans, persons deemed “foreign” in national origin, women, and gay and lesbian servicemembers.
In support of the exclusionary policy, the government argues that the court should defer to military authorities’ current judgement that “service by individuals with gender dysphoria . . . poses . . . significant risks to military readiness,” and “would undermine . . . good order, discipline, steady leadership, unit cohesion, and ultimately military effectiveness and lethality.” The proposed brief argues that such deference is not warranted and that the government’s current position with respect to transgender servicemembers closely resembles positions that military leaders formerly advanced with respect to other historically marginalized groups. Moreover, the military itself has already debunked the proffered justifications. Less than three years ago, after a period of careful review, the then-Secretary of Defense and other military leaders concluded that increasing opportunities for transgender individuals to serve in the military would not pose an unacceptable threat to military readiness or unit cohesion. For the leaders of the armed forces to so quickly turn back toward discrimination is sufficiently anomalous to warrant careful scrutiny. The military’s well established history of advancing—and then admitting the error in—justifications for discrimination against historically marginalized groups based on “military readiness” and “unit cohesion” (or their historical analogues) should lead this Court to treat skeptically the government’s current request for deference to military leaders’ judgment.
Moderated Discussion Thread (below), to access please visit https://shafr.org/user to log-in or create a new user account.