Stella Maxwell
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Equality California Files Suit Against Trump's Trans Military Ban

EQCA

Yet another federal lawsuit has been filed to challenge Donald Trump’s reinstatement of a ban on military service by transgender people.

This one comes from Equality California and seven transgender plaintiffs — four service members and three who have sought to enlist — with representation by the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP.

The suit was filed today in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. “It principally presses claims that the ban unlawfully discriminates against transgender people on the basis of their gender identity; impinges upon transgender people’s fundamental rights by penalizing and stigmatizing them for expressing a fundamental aspect of their personal identity; and violates the right of transgender service members to openly express who they are,” according to an Equality California press release. “It states that the ban is arbitrary, without a rational basis, and motivated by animus against transgender people.”

The ban denies trans people “equal protection of the laws, their right to freedom of expression, and their right to liberty and privacy, in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the complaint states. It names Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and other top military officials as defendants.

“President Trump has attacked American heroes who have risen above discrimination, hostility and lack of acceptance to serve our country by putting their lives on the line in its defense,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, in the press release. “His justification for the ban bears no relation to the truth. Contrary to what the president states, ejecting loyal members of the armed forces promotes chaos and division, not unit cohesion. The cost to the government of transition-related care is negligible. On the other hand, discharging thousands will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and will rip trained and loyal service members out of their units, harming military readiness and requiring the military to find and pay to train replacements. The order effectively leaves no discretion to military leaders, many of whom are firmly opposed to this ban.”

This is the fourth lawsuit filed against the ban. The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders filed a joint suit August 9, and on August 28 came two more suits, one from OutServe-SLDN and Lambda Legal, the other from the American Civil Liberties Union with the firm of Covington and Burling.

Trump announced the ban via Twitter July 26, and on August 25 he signed a memo instructing the departments of Defense and Homeland Security on its implementation, reversing the lifting of the ban last year under President Obama. Mattis is assembling a panel to study how best to implement it. Trans people currently serving in the military can stay in for now, but Trump’s memo directs military leaders to craft a plan by February 21 to block future service by trans people. And it continues blocking enrollment of new trans service members and bans the use of federal funds to cover transition-related health care.

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