Then-candidate Trump waves a rainbow flag that reads “LGBT’s for Trump” at a rally in Colorado last fall. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Two federal lawsuits were filed Monday alleging that President Trump’s ban on transgender troops violates the Constitution.
The suits come just days after the president issued a memo outlining implementation of the ban, which, by early next year, seeks to roll back an Obama-era decision to lift a previous transgender ban in the U.S. military.
The commander in chief surprised some senior members of the military late last month when he announced in a series of tweets that he’d enforce the ban, citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption” as his reasoning.
“In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources,” Trump wrote in the presidential memo issued Friday.
In Maryland, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit Monday on behalf of six transgender military members. The suit claims the president’s ban “violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and substantive due process by singling out transgender individuals for unequal and discriminatory treatment.” Lawyers for the ACLU argue the ban was little more than a political move for the president.
“Press reports indicate that President Trump’s motivations in abruptly announcing a transgender ban were largely political, reflecting a desire to placate legislators and advisers who bear animus and moral disapproval toward men and women who are transgender in order to gain votes to pass a defense spending bill that included money to build a border wall with Mexico — a well-known priority for President Trump,” the complaint reads.
Among the reasons outlined in his initial tweets, the president cited “tremendous medical costs” as part of the justification for the ban. Annual cost estimates for transition-related medical care among members of the military are around $8 million on the high end. In his memo, Trump called for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to halt all funds deployed for sex-reassignment surgery by March 23, 2018.
In a report compiled since the president’s late July announcement, the independent think tank the Palm Center estimates that discharging all transgender troops would cost about $960 million. But there isn’t a plan in place to do that quite yet, and it’s not clear if there ever will be. The president’s memo calls on Defense Secretary James Mattis and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to “determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military.”
Lawyers in the ACLU suit are questioning the president’s judgment. “Although the Transgender Service Member Ban purports to be based on President Trump’s ‘judgment,’ that judgment appears to reflect nothing more than uninformed speculation, myths, and stereotypes that have already been rebutted by an extensive and rigorous evidence-based process,” the suit says.
In Washington state, Lambda Legal filed the second lawsuit Monday, which goes a step further and argues the transgender ban violates the First Amendment rights of transgender troops by keeping them from “expressing and conducting themselves consistently with their gender.”
“President Trump also never spoke to a single transgender person regarding the potential impact of his proposed ban before deciding to institute it,” court documents say.
It’s the third lawsuit to be filed in connection with the president’s ban. Earlier this month, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders filedDoe v. Trump on behalf of five transgender service members. The three suits have been filed in three separate circuits, which could be part of a larger strategy to get it before the Supreme Court faster.
The Pentagon estimates there are about 7,000 transgender troops serving in the U.S. armed forces out of a total 1.3 million active duty service members.
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