Published February, 2019

Roe v. Shanahan, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25419, 2019 WL 643971 (E.D. Va.)

In an ongoing challenge to a Department of Defense policy that would ban servicemembers living with HIV from deploying in combat zones and, therefore, continuing to serve, Judge Leonie Brinkema denied the government’s motion to dismiss and issued a preliminary injunction blocking the military from discharging servicemembers during the pendency of the lawsuit. In granting the injunction, Judge Brinkema cited extensive medical evidence that HIV can easily be managed during deployment.

Lambda Legal and OutServe brought the lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of two servicemembers who were discharged from the Air Force after being diagnosed with HIV in 2017 despite exemplary service records. The military argues that its policy of not deploying servicemembers with HIV is consistent with a general policy of not deploying those with serious medical conditions. However, the servicemembers living with HIV have challenged that contention with extensive medical evidence demonstrating that treatment of asymptomatic HIV is no more difficult to administer in the field than many other medical conditions that do not prevent servicemembers from being deployed and that the risk of HIV transmission in combat is nearly nil.

Thanks to Professor Arthur Leonard and LGBT Law Notes for their analysis of the decision on which this summary is based.