Two of the nation’s most prominent civil rights groups hit the Trump administration with lawsuits on Monday over the president’s decision to ban transgender service members from the military, accusing the White House of pushing a policy motivated by discrimination.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), represented by Lambda Legal, sued in Washington state on behalf of two transgender individuals who want to join the military and will now be barred from doing so, and one current service member who is transgender and is seeking appointment as an officer. The American Civil Liberties Union sued separately in Maryland on behalf of six transgender soldiers, some of whom have served for decades.
In its lawsuit, HRC alleged that Trump’s ban is “dripping with animus” and in clear violation of the equal protection and due process provisions of the Fifth Amendment and the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right to free expression. It is seeking to permanently block the Trump administration from enforcing the ban.
“Like other service members, these transgender individuals are willing to place themselves in harm’s way—and potentially pay the ultimate price—in service of our country,” the filing states. “But their President deprives them of an opportunity to serve on equal terms as others simply because they are transgender.”
The ACLU’s case, which features screenshots of Trump’s tweets announcing the ban, also alleges the government violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights to equal protection and due process, and also asks the court for both a preliminary and permanent injunction blocking its implementation.
“President Trump cast aside the rigorous, evidence-based policy of the Open Service Directive, and replaced it with discredited myths and stereotypes uninformed speculation, and animus against people who are transgender,” the ACLU lawsuit states.
Each lawsuit challenges the president’s assertions that transgender people are a burden on the military due to their medical costs and that their service hurts the military’s “readiness,” citing studies finding that the costs are “minimal” and that in the 18 countries that currently allow transgender people to serve openly, “there has been no significant effect” on readiness or cohesion.
Both cases also note that Trump did not go through the proper Pentagon channels to develop or implement the ban, and instead abruptly announced the change on Twitter after a lobbying effort by right-wing groups outside the government.
Read the complaints below:
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.