Transgender military personnel sue Trump over service ban

Aug 9 (Reuters) - Five transgender members of the U.S. military including Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans sued President Donald Trump on Wednesday, challenging his ban on transgenderpeople serving in the armed forces.

Trump said on Twitter on July 26 that the U.S. government "will not accept or allow transgenderindividuals to serve in any capacity" in the military, a reversal of Pentagon policy that the lawsuit said was made without consulting senior military commanders.

RELATED: Senators react to ban on transgender people in the military

11 PHOTOS
Senators react to ban on transgender people in the military
See Gallery
Senators react to ban on transgender people in the military

"We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are," McCain said.

(Photo credit BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi noted in a statement that the date of Trump's announcement coincided with the date President Harry Truman desegregated the military in 1948.

"Sixty-nine years later, President Trump has chosen this day to unleash a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery," Pelosi said. "This disgusting ban will weaken our military and the nation it defends."

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama was first told of Trump's announcement during a CNN interview, responding that he wanted to read the policy's wording but was sure the Senate will hold hearings on the matter. "You ought to treat everybody fairly and you ought to give everybody a chance to serve," he said.

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq War veteran who lost her legs in combat, called the ban "discriminatory and counterproductive to our national security."

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind," Duckworth said in a statement. "If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve — no matter your gender identity, sexual orientation, or race."

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah was asked whether he stood with the state's transgender community, Hatch responded "Yes" on Twitter, then released a longer statement saying "I don't think we should be discriminating against anyone."

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement the military "should not turn away anyone who is willing and able to serve this country and help keep Americans safe."

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The ban is "discrimination, plain and simple," Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California tweeted.

Source: Twitter

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey wrote that Trump is "wrong" and transgender service members are "heroes like anyone else risking their lives to defend us."

Source: Twitter

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The surprise announcement, citing healthcare costs and unit disruption, appealed to some in Trump's conservative political base but created uncertainty for thousands of transgender service members, many of whom came out after the Pentagon said in 2016 it would allow transgenderpeople to serve openly.

Trump's tweets appeared to dismiss findings from a RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon that found allowing transgender people to serve would "cost little and have no significant impact on unit readiness."

The White House said it does not respond to pending litigation. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The service members suing the president are three U.S. Army soldiers, one U.S. Air Force airman and one member of the U.S. Coast Guard who are active duty.

All have come out as transgender to their commanding officers but are anonymous in the lawsuit, named only as Jane Doe, for fear of retribution, said Jennifer Levi, a lawyer from GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. The group filed the lawsuit along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

RELATED: Social media reacts to Trump's ban of transgender persons from US military

13 PHOTOS
Social media reacts to Trump's announcement on transgender persons barred from military
See Gallery
Social media reacts to Trump's announcement on transgender persons barred from military
The @ACLU calls Pres Trump's transgender policy statement "an outrageous and desperate action."
Trump's ban on Transgender Americans serving in the U.S. Military is an assault on the LGBT+ community and should not be taken lightly.
Donald Trump said transgender people can no longer serve in "any capacity" in the military What about the thousands already serving?
Thousands of brave transgender Americans serving our nation right now proudly prove you wrong, President Trump. https://t.co/OVyYKzjSQG
It's official: the only people Donald Trump has ever paid back are Russia and the religious right. https://t.co/7I8hUnEADw
Trump announced transgender ban while his Defense Secretary was ON VACATION. Essentially confirms a political decision from WH, not DOD led
Trump, in 2016: "Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you." Trump, now: US will not allow transgender ppl to serve in military.
Trump added $15 billion to military funding but can’t swing the “medical costs” of transgender soldiers.
Of course Trump goes after the transgender. That is what weak bullies do when their egos are threatened--attack the vulnerable.
This morning, President Trump conducted his latest policy roll out via Twitter this time assaulting our brave transgender service members.
Combat vet @SenDuckworth calls new WH transgender military policy "discriminatory and counterproductive to our nati… https://t.co/b6WqqTaH8g
I grew up in a military w/ LGBT people serving in the shadows. We can't let DT turn back the clock on our brave, trans soldiers. #RISEUP
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The American Civil Liberties Union said it was preparing its own lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Trump's tweets violate the rights of the service members to due process and equal protection under the law. It asks the court to declare Trump's directive as unconstitutional and to issue injunctions to stop it.

The defendants are listed as Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis and other military leaders including Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford said in a memo a day after Trump's tweets that there would be no change in policy until Mattis received an official order from the president.

That order has yet to be issued.

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

Lawyer Levi said the plaintiffs, some of whom are near retirement, need not wait for an official policy because the tweets alone created uncertainty about their futures. (Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Grant McCool)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.