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California joins legal battle against Trump's transgender military ban

The Golden State is home to more than 130,000 active duty military personnel and 56,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves.
IMAGE: Xavier Becerra
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks during a press conference at San Francisco City Hall Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, in San Francisco.Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

The state of California will join a lawsuit against President Donald Trump's transgender military ban. The U.S. District Court for Central California on Thursday approved California Attorney General Xavier Becerra's request to include the Golden State as a plaintiff in the case, Stockman v. Trump.

The lawsuit's other plaintiffs include four active-duty transgender service members, three transgender people who hope to enlist in the U.S. military and LGBTQ advocacy group Equality California. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) will serve as co-counsel.

July's Twitter surprise

President Trump initially announced the ban via his Twitter account, arguing in a July 26 tweet that the military "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

In October, a federal judge blocked Trump from banning transgender people from serving in the military. The ruling forced the military to revert back to its previous policy on trans service members — one that protects them from being discharged on the basis of gender identity.

Defending the rights of Californians

Becerra cited the large number of armed forces members residing in California to justify the state’s inclusion in the lawsuit.

“Our state is home to more than 130,000 active duty military personnel, in addition to more than 56,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves,” Becerra said in a statement. “We are ready to get to work to defend the rights of transgender service members and those who seek to enlist in our armed forces."

Becerra added that the move upholds the state's values.

“In California, we stand together against discrimination and inequality,” Becerra said. “We look forward to joining as a co-plaintiff in this critically important lawsuit to defend the rights of Californians against President Trump’s prejudicial and discriminatory agenda.”

This is not the first time California has fought against Trump's trans military ban. Back in October, Becerra was one of 15 attorneys general to sign a brief in support of an earlier lawsuit filed by NCLR and GLAD on behalf of eight transgender service members.

Jennifer Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLAD, said California's participation in the lawsuit is "another step forward in beating back Trump’s reckless ban."

“It is incredibly significant to have the state of California — the most populous state in the nation —with us in this fight for service members, for those who wish to enlist, and for the stability and strength of the military," Levi said in a statement sent to NBC News.

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said he believes this development in the Stockman v. Trump lawsuit has given those fighting against Trump’s transgender military ban hope regarding the case’s outcome.

“We must stop Trump’s transgender military ban once and for all — too much is at stake for California, and for the nation,” Zbur said in a statement. “Today’s action by the court makes us even more confident that it will rule decisively against the administration and their reckless policy.”