WASHINGTON — Transgender service members filed suit in federal courts on Monday challenging President Donald Trump’s memorandum directing the secretary of defense to bar transgender Americans from military service.
The lawsuits are the first filed in federal courts since the President’s guidance to the Pentagon was issued on Friday. The President first announced his policy on Twitter on July 26 declaring that men and women who are transgender would no longer be allowed to continue serving in the military in “any capacity.”
The decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under former President Barack Obama, which was still under final review that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. In Friday’s memorandum, Trump directed the departments of Defense and Homeland Security “to determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving” and to halt the use of resources to fund “sex-reassignment surgical procedures.”
“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 in a statement. “Thousands of current service members are transgender, and many have been serving openly, courageously and successfully in the US military for more than a year — not to mention the previous decades when many were forced to serve in silence,” he said.
Renn’s lawsuit is filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington. The plaintiffs include Staff Sgt. Catherine Schmid, a 33-year-old woman currently serving in Joint Base Lewis-McChord who has applied to become an Army warrant officer. In court papers, lawyers for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund argued that the President’s “unilateral decision” was made “without any meaningful deliberative process and was directly contrary to the considered judgment of the military.”
The ACLU has filed a separate suit in the United Stated District Court for the District of Maryland by the ACLU on behalf of transgender service members, including Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone and others.
“The Trump administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on an analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly,” ACLU lawyers said.
The brief includes copies of the President’s tweets on the issue, including one on July 26 where he wrote: “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
Stone is a 34-year-old man assigned to a unit at Fort Meade, Maryland, who has served in the US Navy for 11 years, including time in Afghanistan. Stone revealed his transgender status to military personnel in 2016 after the Defense Department concluded there was no basis for the military to exclude transgender service members. Stone is currently undergoing hormone therapy as a part of his gender transition at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
Plaintiffs in both suits allege that Trump’s policy directive violated their right to equal protection and due process.
“Defendants’ disparate treatment of transgender individuals deprives them of their right to equal dignity and stigmatizes them as second-class citizens in violation of equal protection guarantees,” Lambda Legal wrote in briefs.
In addition, a group of current and former military professors released a memo Monday morning arguing that the President has left the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security little discretion in addressing the status of current transgender persons.
“The secretaries have no discretion to rewrite policy or create blanket exemptions for classes of service members,” the professors wrote in a memo put out by the Palm Center. “The most they can decide are the individual fates of currently serving transgender personnel, whose presence will be inconsistent with new military policy.”