Donald Trump. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Backlash over President Donald Trump’s tweeted intention of banning transgender people from military services has now culminated in a federal lawsuit.
Wednesday five service members, including some Iraq and Afghanistan campaign veterans, filed civil rights claims against the president, who tweeted last month that “after consultation” with “generals and military experts,” the government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
Trump cited health care costs associated with gender reassignment surgery as the reason for the proposed ban. The Jane Doe plaintiffs, including three members of the Army, one from the Air Force, and one from the Coast Guard, argue that Trump’s proposed ban violates the equal protections guarantee of the Constitution.
“Execution of the president’s directive will result in an end to service by openly transgender service members and has already resulted in immediate, concrete injury to plaintiffs by unsettling and destabilizing plaintiffs’ reasonable expectation of continued service,” the complaint says.
“The president’s change of military policy has been devastating to these plaintiffs,” said Jennifer Levi, an attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) who represents the plaintiffs. ”We won’t stop short of getting clear direction that transgender people may continue to serve openly in the military.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the White House had not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.
Along with Trump, the lawsuit was filed against the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, along with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and Elaine C. Duke, secretary of Homeland Security. It was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Although Trump announced on Twitter his intention to ban transgender individuals from service, the U.S. Department of Defense has not taken the surprise tweet as a directive and no official move to institute the ban has been publicly announced by Pentagon officials.
In June 2016, President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a change in standing policy for transgender people serving in the armed forces. The announcement included a one-year plan to allow transgender people to enlist and immediately made it so service members could no longer be discharged for being transgender. Last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis delayed the July 1 deadline to begin enlisting transgender people by six months.
In the wake of Trump’s tweet, several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, were poised to take legal action. In a written statement, senior staff attorney Joshua Block implored any service members affected by the announcement to “please get in touch with us, because we want to hear from you.”