Federal Judge Stops Defense Department From Discharging HIV+ Military – For Now

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to stop discharging HIV+ members of the U.S. military for the time being.

The order came in the case of Roe and Voe v. Shanahan, filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, with partner law firm Winston & Strawn, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Airmen who were given discharge orders in November of last year.

Both men had tested positive for HIV in 2017 during routine screenings, and after beginning antiretroviral treatment they were deemed asymptomatic and declared physically fit to deploy, according to The Washington Post.

Even though they had the backing of their commanding officers, they were informed in November that the military prohibits personnel with HIV from being deployed to the Middle East, where the majority of Air Force members are expected to go.

In February 2018, the Trump administration announced its “Deploy or Get Out” policy which ordered the Pentagon to identify service members who cannot be deployed to military posts outside the United States for more than 12 consecutive months, and to separate them from military service.

Both men say they can deploy with no issues as long as they take a supply of medication with them.

One of the airmen told The Washington Post he'd already been deployed to the Middle East twice, and both times his duty didn't require him to leave his base where proper medical facilities were available.

Neither men were given the option of alternative jobs, which they say they would have accepted.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema issued the preliminary injunction Friday after hearing oral arguments in regarding Lamda Legal and Outserve-SLDN’s motion for a preliminary injunction as well as the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss.

Judge Brinkema granted the injunction after ruling the plaintiffs (who filed pseudonymously as “Richard Roe” and “Victor Voe”) were likely to prevail in stopping their discharge.

Peter Perkowski, OutServe-SLDN’s Legal & Policy Director, issued a statement which read: 

“We are thrilled that Judge Brinkema recognized not just that the military’s policies were harming our members who are living and serving with HIV. But also indicated that, at least on the evidence before her, the military’s decisions were based on outdated medical science and are categorically denying people living with HIV the same opportunities as their fellow service members. We look forward to a final decision in the case.”

 

(h/t Lambda Legal, Washington Post)

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