WASHINGTON — Five active duty service women have filed the first lawsuit against President Donald Trump for what they see as an unconstitutional effort to stop transgender personnel from serving.
The women, who serve in the Air Force, the Coast Guard and the Army, were previously men who have transitioned. As a group, they have more than 60 combined years of military service, with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Trump’s apparent intent to reverse the 10-month-old Pentagon policy that allows transgender troops to serve openly is likely to set the stage for a legal battle between the Defense Department and those troops at risk of involuntary separation, legal experts say.
The case argues, among other claims, that “Trump’s directive to exclude transgender people from military service discriminates against Plaintiffs based on their sex and transgender status,” which they argue is in violation of the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
On July 26, Trump declared — in a series of three tweets — that transgender personnel are no longer welcome to serve in the military. In the days that followed the military scrambled to interpret whether the tweets were indicative of actual policy. It was subsequently deduced that the tweets were not, barring further guidance from the White House.
The White House has yet to follow up on the tweets or issue any further guidance. The services, meanwhile, have communicated to their forces that the current policy allowing transgender personnel to serve would remain in place. The Pentagon, under former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, announced transgender personnel would be allowed to serve openly in Oct. 2016.
“This unjustifiable reversal of policy is devastating to these soldiers and harmful to our country,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and one of the attorneys for the women. “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.”
The case also lists Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the individual service chiefs as defendants.