Two lawsuits challenge Trump transgender military service ban

Aug 28 (Reuters) - Civil rights groups filed two lawsuits on Monday challenging President Donald Trump's controversial ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.

Both lawsuits say the ban violated U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process under the Fifth Amendment, and one said it also violates service members' free speech rights.

“We do not comment on active or pending litigation," a White House official said.

Trump announced the ban in a series of Twitter posts on July 26, reversing a policy of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

RELATED: A look at transgender members of the military

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Transgender members of the military

Nevada Army National Guard Sergeant Sam Hunt, an electrician with G Company, 2/238th General Support Aviation Battalion poses for a photo on the flight line at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Stead, Nevada, U.S. May 12, 2017. Hunt is the first openly transgender soldier of the Nevada National Guard. 

(Tech. Sgt. Emerson Marcus/Nevada Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs/Handout via REUTERS)

Former US Army Colonel and transgender Sheri Swokowski talks with reporters on July 27, 2017 in DeForest, Wisconsin, the day following US President Donald Trumps announcing of a ban on transgender military members.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Transgender former US Air Force member Vanessa Sheridan poses for a photo after talking with reporters in Chicago, Illinois on July 26, 2017. Trump announced that transgender people may not serve 'in any capacity' in the US military, citing the 'tremendous medical costs and disruption' their presence would cause.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Kristin Beck, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, speaks during a same-sex marriage rally to celebrate the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 25, 2014. The U.S. appeals court ruled on Wednesday that conservative Utah may not ban gay couples from marrying, a decision that capped a day of victories for same-sex nuptials and nudges the issue closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

Alaina Kupec poses for a portrait at Logo's 'Trailblazer Honors' on June 23, 2016, in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

(Photo by Ungano & Agriodimas /Getty Images Portrait)

Transgender military pilot Shane Ortega arrives at IDENTITY: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders The List Portraits exhibition opening at the Annenberg Space for Photography on September 22, 2016 in Century City, California.

(Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Former US Army Colonel and transgender Sheri Swokowski carries her uniform July 27, 2017 in DeForest, Wisconsin, the day following US President Donald Trumps announcing of a ban on transgender military members.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Former US Army Colonel and transgender Sheri Swokowski raises the American flag at her home on July 27, 2017 in DeForest, Wisconsin, the day following US President Donald Trumps announcing of a ban on transgender military members.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Transgender former US Air Force member Vanessa Sheridan poses for a photo after talking with reporters in Chicago, Illinois on July 26, 2017. Trump announced that transgender people may not serve 'in any capacity' in the US military, citing the 'tremendous medical costs and disruption' their presence would cause.

(DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

Transgender Retired US Army Colonel Sheri Swokowski prepares her uniform on July 1, 2016, at her home in DeForest, Wisconsin. Transgender personnel will no longer be barred from serving openly in the US military, the Pentagon announced on June 30, 2016. Lifting the ban on transgender service members is 'the right thing to do, and it's another step in ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified people,' US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters.

(DEREK HENKLE/AFP/Getty Images)

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It halted years of efforts to eliminate barriers to military service based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including an "Open Service Directive" designed to let transgender people serve without fear of discharge.

"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," according to one of the lawsuits, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ban was widely seen as an appeal by Trump, a Republican, to his conservative political base.

Civil rights groups and some politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties accused Trump of politically motivated discrimination, and some senior military officials were caught off guard by the announcement.

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Roughly 2,500 active duty personnel are transgender, according to a RAND Corporation study cited last year by Obama's defense secretary, Ash Carter.

One lawsuit was filed in Baltimore federal court by the ACLU on behalf of six transgender people serving in several branches of the military.

The second lawsuit was filed in Seattle federal court by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN on behalf of an Army staff sergeant, two transgender people who wish to join the military and various other groups. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

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