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ACLU, LGBTQ legal groups sue Trump over trans military ban

Lawsuits allege that the ban violates trans service members' constitutional rights.


Ana Valens


Posted on Aug 28, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 7:09 pm CDT

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal have each filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over the president’s transgender military ban.

The lawsuits present President Donald Trump with yet another legal fight over the policies he’s enacted since he took office less than eight months ago.

On Monday morning, the ACLU of Maryland and five transgender service members announced a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the ban, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Maryland. The complaint alleges that the military ban violates transgender service members’ constitutional rights by denying equal protection and substantive due process under the law. The lawsuit also claims that the ban discriminates on “sex and transgender status” and is largely made up of “uninformed speculation, myths and stereotypes, moral disapproval,” and a “bare desire” to hurt trans people.

“Each and every claim made by the President Trump to justify this ban can be easily debunked by the conclusions drawn from the Department of Defense’s own review process,” ACLU LGBT & HIV project senior staff attorney Josh Block said a press release. “Allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly and providing them with necessary health care does nothing to harm military readiness or unit cohesion.”

The lawsuit’s five individual plaintiffs are all service members who have served in the Army, Navy, and National Guard. These include an army team leader and designated marksman who served in Afghanistan, an airman awarded “Airman of the Year” for his service, and a first class airman training as a nurse. All five plaintiffs identify as transgender.

“As a consequence of the Transgender Service Member Ban, thousands of Americans already serving their country—many of whom publicly revealed that they are transgender after DoD formally welcomed their service in June 2016—have been told that they are no longer welcome,” the lawsuit alleges. “While the Pentagon develops a plan to involuntarily terminate their military service, men and women who are transgender will be singled out from other service members and denied medically necessary healthcare that is provided to everyone else.”

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN also announced a lawsuit on Monday morning, filed along with two transgender plaintiffs who wish to join the military, a current transgender service member, Gender Justice League, and the Human Rights Campaign. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the lawsuit challenges the ban’s constitutionality, arguing that the Trump administration’s policy violates “the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment.”

“This ban not only wrongfully prevents patriotic, talented Americans from serving, it also compromises the safety and security of our country,” Lambda Legal senior attorney Peter Renn said in a Human Rights Campaign press releases. “Once again attacking a vulnerable population based on bias, political opportunism and demonstrably untrue ‘alternative facts,’ President Trump is denying brave men and women the opportunity to serve our country without any legitimate justification whatsoever.”

President Trump officially sent out guidance on the trans military ban on Friday after announcing the ban on Twitter in late July. The ban reverses Obama era guidelines on trans service in the military, orders the Pentagon to end funding for gender confirmation surgeries, and gives the defense secretary the ability to remove active duty trans service members from duty. It is currently unclear whether Defese Secretary James Mattis will allow trans service members to remain in the military.

Five transgender service members previously sued the Trump administration prior to the guidelines’ official release, citing similar constitutional concerns over the then-proposed ban. It remains unclear how the guidelines will be enforced going forward or if further lawsuits will be filed.

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*First Published: Aug 28, 2017, 10:46 am CDT