A Virginia federal judge ruled that a court case challenging the Pentagon’s new anti-HIV policy can move forward, reports Bloomberg. However, the judge denied a request to temporarily block the policy while the case moves forward.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration had defended its policy and requested that the lawsuit, titled Harrison v. Mattis, be dropped.
The Department of Defense policy in question is called “Deploy or Get Out.” Announced in February 2018, Trump’s policy orders the discharge of service members who cannot be deployed for 12 consecutive months, regardless of fitness or ability to serve. This is problematic for service members living with HIV because they are considered non-deployable. According to The New York Times, Trump’s new policy could mean that 1,823 healthy-but-HIV-positive troops may be forced out of the military.
“We are pleased the court recognizes the importance of allowing this case to move forward, and of ensuring that outdated and irrational policies regarding people living with HIV are not allowed to stand,” said Scott Schoettes, counsel and HIV project director at Lambda Legal, in a press release from the organization. Lambda Legal is a nonprofit legal defense organization that fights for the LGBT and HIV communities.
“While we develop the record the court needs in order to rule on the constitutionality of the Defense Department’s HIV-related personnel policies,” Schoettes continued, “we will continue to be vigilant to ensure that service members are not being discharged solely because they are living with HIV under the Trump administration’s new version of its ‘Deploy or Get Out.’”
“Since we first filed this case, we have heard from many service members worried about how Trump’s Defense Department will handle people living with HIV, so we are very pleased the court denied the government’s motion to dismiss,” said Peter Perkowski, legal director of OutServe-SLDN, an association that serves LGBTQ veterans and military members, in the release. “The judge had some very pointed questions for the government about why it made sense for the military to invest as much as it had in Sergeant Harrison and then deny him this position as a JAG officer simply because he is living with HIV.We look forward to proving that decision was not only nonsensical, but unconstitutional.”
To read more in POZ about this case and a similar one titled Doe v. Mattis, read “Court Is Asked to Stop Pentagon From Discharging Service Members With HIV” and “Sergeant With HIV Sues Defense Department Over ‘Archaic’ Policies