Military Service Members Sue Trump, Armed Forces for Transgender Ban

By Kenrya Rankin Aug 10, 2017

Five anonymous active duty military service members joined with National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) to file a legal complaint regarding the military’s decision to bar transgender people from the military.

On July 26, Trump tweeted that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” While it quickly became clear that he did not provide the Department of Defense (DOD) with an actual policy recommendation, Pentagon officials did announce that it would not accept applications from transgender people for the rest of 2017. The move comes a year after the DOD decreed that transgender people could serve openly.

“Secretary [James] Mattis today approved a recommendation by the services to defer accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018,” spokesperson Dana White said in a June 30 statement. “The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces.”

Yesterday (August 9), the plaintiffs—identified as Jane Does 1 through 5—brought suit against Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford Jr., Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. They are also suing the United States of America and the three branches they serve in: the Army, the Air Force and the Coast Guard.

“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,” Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and NCLR legal director, said in a statement. “The President’s mistreatment of these dedicated troops will serve only to weaken and demoralize our armed forces.”

The suit alleges that, “the directive to reinstate a ban on open service by transgender people violates both the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” The plaintiffs are asking the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent the government from prohibiting transgender people from serving in the Armed Forces.