The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders today filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging Donald Trump’s directive to reinstate the ban on military service by transgender people.
The suit, Doe v. Trump, was filed on behalf of five transgender service members with nearly 60 years of combined military service. It contends that the ban violates both the equal protection and due process provisions of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs, identified only as Jane Doe 1-5, serve in the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Army. Their years of service range from three years to two decades and include tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the Obama administration announced the lifting of the ban in June 2016, “Plaintiffs, along with thousands of servicemembers, have followed protocol in informing their chain of command that they are transgender,” the lawsuit states. “They did so in reliance on the United States’ express promises that it would permit them to continue to serve their country openly. These servicemembers, like many others, have built their lives around their military service.”
Trump’s announcement, which “was made without consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff, upset the reasonable expectations of Plaintiffs and thousands of other transgender servicemembers and the men and women with whom they serve and fight,” the document continues. It seeks a permanent injunction against the ban.
“Last year, the Department of Defense announced that transgender people could serve openly,” one plaintiff said in an NCLR-GLAD press release. “I was very relieved and came out as transgender to my commanding officers, who were supportive. My experience has been positive, and I am prouder than ever to continue to serve. I am married and have three children, and the military has been my life. But now I’m worried about my family’s future.”
“Trump’s directive to exclude transgender people from military service has created a tidal wave of harms that have already been felt throughout our armed services. Transgender service members have been blindsided by this shift and are scrambling to deal with what it means for their futures and their families,” said Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and NCLR legal director, in the same release. “The president’s mistreatment of these dedicated troops will serve only to weaken and demoralize our armed forces.”
“The commander in chief has said that transgender service members -- people who have served our nation with honor and distinction -- are no longer welcome to serve,” added Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project. “This unjustifiable reversal of policy is devastating to these soldiers and harmful to our country. These plaintiffs put their lives on the line every day for all of us. We can’t afford to lose a single one of them.”
In addition to GLAD and NCLR, the plaintiffs are represented by lawyers from the firms Foley, Hoag LLP and WilmerHale.
Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN have also promised a joint lawsuit against the ban, and the American Civil Liberties Union has promised its own. The ACLU sent a letter to the White House Monday formally informing the administration of its intent to sue and telling officials to preserve all documents related to the ban. The administration has reportedly prepared guidance on the implementation of the ban and forwarded it to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
A new study, meanwhile, puts the cost of discharging and replacing trans service members at $960 million, while reliable researchers estimate the cost of providing transition-related health care to service members who seek it would cost, at most, $8.4 million a year. The study was coauthored by Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a think tank that focuses on sexual minorities in the military, and current and retired professors at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
“If President Trump is truly concerned about the financial costs of transgender service, his announced ban has it exactly backwards,” Belkin said in a press release. “American taxpayers should ask the president, who is proud of his business savvy, why he’s spending a dollar to buy a dime.”