Pentagon & Congress

Rights groups sue Trump over military transgender ban

WASHINGTON — A trio of advocacy groups on Monday sued President Donald Trump over his ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, calling it unconstitutional and un-American.

The first challenge — filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN on behalf of a three transgender plaintiffs — asks for Trump’s actions to be reversed and for the courts to block “any separation, discharge, adverse action, or denial of promotion, reenlistment, continuation of service, accession, or appointment because an individual is transgender.”

In a statement, the groups blasted Trump for discriminating against the transgender community.

“This ban not only wrongfully prevents patriotic, talented Americans from serving, it also compromises the safety and security of our country,” said Peter Renn, senior attorney for Lambda Legal. “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.”

In addition, officials from the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Monday on behalf of five current transgender servicemembers, presenting similar arguments.

“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,” Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement. “Men and women who are transgender with the courage and capacity to serve deserve more from their commander-in-chief.”

Both suits follow a legal challenge filed by GLAD earlier this month, after Trump hinted at the policy change on Twitter but before the official policy memo was released. 

On Friday, White House announced details of the new rules for transgender recruits, reversing policies from former President Barack Obama that allowed transgender troops to serve openly and receive medical care for gender dysphoria treatments.

Under the new policy, to be enforced in coming months, transgender recruits will not be admitted to the ranks, and the Secretary of Defense will determine if those already in the ranks can stay, based on “military effectiveness and lethality” criteria.

In addition, the Defense Department will no longer pay for medical care related to the condition, except in cases where a servicemember’s life is in danger.

Estimates on the number of transgender troops in the ranks range from a few hundred to nearly 15,000. Among the plaintiffs in the Lambda Legal/OutServe-SLDN lawsuit is Staff Sgt. Cathrine Schmid, a transgender active-duty soldier who recently applied to become a warrant officer but has been blocked because of the uncertainty regarding the new policy.

“I love serving my country, which I’ve been doing for more than 12 years,” she said in a statement. “Since the ban on open service by transgender men and women was lifted (last year), I’ve been able to live and serve as my authentic self, which has allowed me to form stronger bonds with my fellow service members.”

The other two plaintiffs are would-be recruits who now are specifically blocked from joining the ranks.

White House officials have said the move is needed to preserve military readiness and morale, and to avoid significant medical costs associated with surgeries and hormone therapy.

Rights groups have disputed those excuses, saying past studies into the issue have shown minimal costs and no significant damage to unit cohesion or skills.

Pentagon officials have not yet fully outlined how they’ll implement the new presidential order, or how many active-duty troops they expect to dismiss under the new rules.

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