ACLU sues Donald Trump over transgender soldier ban

President Donald J. Trump speaks with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other senior leaders of the armed forces at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed two lawsuits on Monday challenging President Donald Trump’s controversial ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.

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.

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.

“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.

“Men and women who are transgender with the courage and capacity to serve deserve more from their commander-in-chief,” ACLU attorney Joshua Block said in a statement.

“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. It sparked outcry and confusion last month, as it seemed the Pentagon had not been briefed on the decision.

Mr Trump has claimed transgender service must be banned due to the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” that it would entail. A 2016 study commissioned by the Department of Defence, however, found that allowing transgender troops to serve openly would have “little to no impact” on military readiness, and would increase health care expenditures by less than half a per cent.

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.

“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,” Mr Block said.

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.

The ACLU included screen shots of the tweets in the complaint, saying they were a “purely political” attempt to accommodate the most conservative legislators who support the president.

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

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

“We promised that we would sue if the president took this action,” said Peter Perkowski, Legal Director for OutServe-SLDN. “…We are on the side of every single transgender service member and those who want to serve.” He added: “The nation’s courts exist to protect the people whom tyrants would otherwise abuse. Trump can’t tweet his way out of this one.”




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