Civil rights groups with help from two big law firms filed two lawsuits Monday against President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.
Trump signed a memorandum Aug. 25 that officially codified the ban and provided implementation guidance to the Defense Department. In Seattle, Lambda Legal teamed up with Kirkland & Ellis to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, while a group from Covington & Burling joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union to bring a challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
Several LGBT and civil rights groups promised legal action when Trump announced the ban in a tweet last month.
“This ban is disrespectful and dishonorable to the thousands of transgender men and women who are boldly and bravely serving our country,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Sasha Buchert, a transgender military veteran, in a written statement. “It deprives our armed forces of those wanting to serve at a time when the military is already facing threats on multiple fronts. It also is disrespectful to the leadership at the Department of Defense who worked to develop and implement the current policy allowing open service, which has been operating successfully for more than a year.”
Kirkland partner Jordan Heinz said in a statement that he and fellow partner James Hurst “signed on” to work with Lambda because they believe the case is an “important legal fight.”
“During a time when every qualified person is needed to help defend and protect our country, we should not be turning away people from the military because they are transgender,” Heinz said in a statement.
The Covington team, working with the ACLU, includes partners David Zionts and Mitchell Kamin, senior counsel Carolyn Corwin and associates Jeff Bozman, Marianne Kies, Christopher Hanson, Tom Plotkin and Nicholas Lampros.
Lawyers from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders also filed a lawsuit against the ban earlier this month along with a team from Wilmer Pickering Hale & Dorr. That case is in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The two new lawsuits claim the ban violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause and discriminates on the basis of sex. The complaints note the administration provided little evidence or reasoning for the ban.
“Each and every claim made by the President Trump to justify this ban can be easily debunked by the conclusions drawn from the Department of Defense’s own review process,” Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a written statement. “Allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly and providing them with necessary health care does nothing to harm military readiness or unit cohesion. Men and women who are transgender with the courage and capacity to serve deserve more from their commander-in-chief.”
The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of the organization’s Maryland branch as well as five current transgender members of the armed forces. The Lambda suit was filed on behalf of two individuals seeking to join the military, a current service member seeking a promotion, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gender Justice League. Seattle-based firm Newman Du Wors is also working on that lawsuit as well as the advocacy group OutServe-SLDN.