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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 11, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 32
Transgender service members sue Trump
Section One
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Transgender service members sue Trump

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Five Transgender service members filed suit against Donald Trump and other federal officials on August 9. The five are collectively identified as 'Jane Doe' in the 15-page complaint filed on their behalf by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders).

The lawsuit - now known as Doe v. Trump - charges that Trump's tweets barring Trans people from military service 'upset the reasonable expectations of plaintiffs and thousands of other transgender service members and the men and women with whom they serve and fight.'

This undermining of Trans service members' expectation of continued military service amounts to a violation of the right to equal protection and due process under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs have also been injured by Trump's new policy barring them from military service, their attorneys say in court documents.

'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 charges.

Trump's stated intention to ban Trans people from serving in the US armed forces also violates the legal doctrine of estoppel, the lawsuits says.

Estoppel means that government officials may not make assertions contradictory to a previously held policy or position. Trump's ban on Trans military service violates estoppel because the Obama administration assured Trans people that they would be allowed to serve last year, plaintiffs say.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Trump's proposed ban on Transgender military service is unconstitutional, and asks the court for an injunction stopping it from going into effect.

Each of the five anonymous plaintiffs serves in a branch of the US armed forces. One is a US Army soldier who has previously been deployed to Afghanistan and expects deployment soon to Iraq. Another is an active duty airman who has served in the US Air Force for almost 20 years and has undertaken multiple tours of duty abroad, including two in Iraq.

All say they prefer to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution.

'Last year, the Department of Defense announced that transgender people could serve openly,' one plaintiff 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.'

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the secretaries for each of the military services and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, who oversees the US Coast Guard.

Spokespersons for the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security told the Washington Blade they could not comment on litigation. A White House spokesperson referred the Washington Blade to the Justice Department, but the Justice Department declined to comment until they'd been served with the complaint in the case.

'When we are served with the complaint, we will review it and defend the administration's position,' the Justice Department's spokesperson said.

Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement that the harm of Trump's proposal to ban Transgender military service is already clear.

'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,' Minter said.

'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.'

Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement that the service of each of Trans service member is valuable and the nation would be hurt by banning them from the service.

'The Commander in Chief has said that transgender service members - people who have served our nation with honor and distinction - are no longer welcome to serve,' Levi said.

'This unjustifiable reversal of policy is devastating to these soldiers and harmful to our country. These plaintiffs put their lives on the line every day for all of us. We can't afford to lose a single one of them.'

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