WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s ban on trangender military service, arguing that it is unconstitutional. The suit was filed on behalf of two individuals who seek to join the military; one current service member who seeks appointment as an officer; the Human Rights Campaign; and Gender Justice League, a Seattle-based gender and sexuality civil and human rights organization.
“This ban not only wrongfully prevents patriotic, talented Americans from serving, it also compromises the safety and security of our country,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said. “Thousands of current service members are transgender… 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.”
The suit responds to news that broke Friday regarding the potential ban announced on Twitter by Donald Trump last month. The White House directed the Pentagon Friday to extend a pre-existing ban on enrolling transgender troops, and gave Defense Secretary James Mattis six months to develop a policy on currently serving transgender troops.
The prior ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military was longstanding until June 2016, when it was overturned former President Barack Obama’s administration. The decision on accepting openly transgender hopefuls into the armed forces was then set to be made by July 2017. Now, Trump has instructed Secretary Mattis to extend the deadline indefinitely — effectively halting transgender patriots from committing to service, before they ever had the chance.
Mattis’ policy on existing transgender troops is due on March 23, 2018, an anonymous official told reporters last week. Mattis is to consider the issue with a focus on evaluating “military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints, and applicable law.” Transgender troops and veterans say that effectiveness is not an issue.
“Being transgender had had absolutely no impact on my fitness for duty,” said Army Capt. Jennifer Peace, a transgender woman who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 while transitioning. “There should be no transgender standard — there should be an Army standard. If I can make the Army standard, I should be able to serve.”
As for the Defense Department budget, a RAND Corporation study estimated that providing gender transition-related coverage for all 2,000 to 11,000 transgender troops currently serving would increase healthcare spending between 0.04 percent and 0.13 percent.
Politicians continue to speak against the ban, including U.S. Senate veteran John McCain, a Republican and previous presidential candidate.
“It would be a step in the wrong direction,” Sen. John McCain said, “to force currently serving transgender individuals to leave the military solely on the basis of their gender identity rather than medical and readiness standards that should always be at the heart of Department of Defense personnel policy.”
On the other side of the aisle, a Democratic candidate for a Virginia House seat condemned the ban.
“For our president, who opted out of serving in the military, to attack transgender people for being unfit to serve… is the height of hypocrisy,” said Virginian transgender candidate Danica Roem. “Transgender military members… have done more to serve and protect their country than Donald Trump ever will.”