Transgender Active-Duty Troops Sue Trump Over Military Ban

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August 10, 2017

President Donald Trump is being sued by five transgender people serving in the United States military who are requesting for transgender troops to be permitted to stay in the armed forces.

The lawsuit comes in response to Trump's July tweets announcing transgender troops would not be allowed to serve in the military in "any capacity," according to the New York Times.

The case, organized by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, is filed under pseudonyms "Jane Doe" one through five.

The Times reports other rights groups such as Lambda, Outserve, and the ACLU are also prepared to file lawsuits, but are holding off until the Trump administration actually takes steps towards implementing the ban.

"We have not yet filed suit, although we stand ready to do so," said Lamda Legal Director Jon Davidson. "We have been awaiting confirmation that the White House has transmitted a final guidance, directive, or other instructions to the Department of Defense, which, to the best of our knowledge, has not yet occurred."

Although it could be perceived as counterintuitive to file a lawsuit before the ban is implemented, Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said that active transgender service members were already being affected by the uncertainty.

A 2014 UCLA Williams Institute study estimated there were 8,800 transgender individuals serving and thousands of others in the National Guard and reserve. However, a 2016 study by the RAND Corporation estimated that there were only around 2,450 transgender active duty troops and around 65 would seek to transition per year.

"It is critical to act now because the harms are happening now," Minter said. "These service members deserve to know where they stand."

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., responded to Trump's abrupt tweets on July 26 by saying that current policies had not changed and would not change until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was issued new guidelines.

"In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect," Dunford said.

The lawsuit complaint argues it is unconstitutional to ban trans people from serving in the military, citing discrimination. It also argues that people's military careers could not be ended by the Pentagon because it was the Pentagon itself that said openly trans people would be permitted to serve, the Times reported.

Trump's Twitter announcement is not real policy yet, but experts told the Times it could be by the time a judge decides on whether the lawsuit should be tried or not.

Minter expressed that by filing the case, it would force the White House to talk about the plans regarding the ban.

"I don't think we will get dismissed on ripeness because people are being harmed now," Minter said. "But if we do, we will be right back as soon as there is any additional movement."