Metro Weekly

5 transgender service members sue to block proposed ban

Lawyers for plaintiffs argue policy violates their Fifth Amendment rights

Photo: John Riley

Lawyers representing five anonymous transgender service members with nearly 60 years of combined military service have filed a federal lawsuit to block the Trump administration from carrying out a proposed ban on transgender service members.

Specifically, the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, urges the court to issue a finding that any directive singling out transgender individuals for discriminatory treatment is unconstitutional, and to issue both a preliminary and a permanent injunction to stop the White House and the Pentagon from implementing any such ban.

All five plaintiffs are transgender women, all of whom have served openly, without incident, since the Obama administration lifted an existing ban on transgender service members in June 2016. All five wish to continue serving in various capacities in the U.S. military.

“Last year, the Department of Defense announced that transgender people could serve openly,” one of the plaintiffs said in a statement. “I was very relieved and came out as transgender to my commanding officers, who were supportive. My experience has been positive and I am prouder than ever to continue to serve. I am married and have three children, and the military has been my life. But now, I’m worried about my family’s future.”

Lawyers from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, which are representing all five “Jane Does” noted that any proposed ban would put their clients in jeopardy of losing their livelihoods, as well as medical, retirement and other benefits that they’ve accrued during their years of service.

“Trump’s directive to exclude transgender people from military service has created a tidal wave of harms that have already been felt throughout our armed services,” Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and legal director at NCLR, said in a statement. “Transgender service members have been blindsided by this shift and are scrambling to deal with what it means for their futures and their families. The President’s mistreatment of these dedicated troops will serve only to weaken and demoralize our armed forces.”

In their complaint, lawyers for the five plaintiffs argue that any transgender military ban infringes on their client’s Fifth Amendment rights. They say the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the federal government from denying equal protection, and from “depriving individuals of their property or liberty interests without due process of law.”

They also argue that their clients came out, revealed their gender identity, with some even pursuing transition-related medical treatment based on the Department of Defense’s past assurances that they would be able to serve regardless of their gender identity, without fear of being forcibly discharged just for coming out.

That said, the White House has not yet sent any specific policy guidance to the Pentagon on how to implement the proposed ban, reports The New York Times. Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, a spokesman for the Pentagon, directed reporters to an earlier statement from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, Jr., who had said there would be no changes made regarding the current policy until military leaders had received such guidance.

“There is no change,” Haverstick told the Times. “We are still waiting for more guidance from the White House.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com