LGBTQ rights groups have begun a legal tactical plan to go to war with the president over his Twitter threat to ban all transgender service members from the US military. The first strike came today when two groups filed a lawsuit against the president on behalf of five anonymous transgender service members, with nearly 60 years of combined military duty between them, identified as “Jane Doe.”
The lawsuit, Doe vs Trump is a 15-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. The complaint is seeking to enjoin enforcement of the ban because the, “Execution of the president’s directive will result in an end to service by openly transgender service member and has already resulted in immediate, concrete injury to plaintiffs by unsettling and destabilizing plaintiffs’ reasonable expectation of continued service.” Further, “the undermining of transgender service member’s expectation of continued service amounts to a violation of the right to equal protection and due process under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit claims that the ban would violate the doctrine of estoppel — a legal doctrine against making assertions contradictory to a previously held position. In this case, Trump’s transgender military ban is in violation of the Obama administration’s assurance that transgender people have the right to serve.
Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, stated that, “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 also warned, “The president’s mistreatment of these dedicated troops will service only to weaken and demoralize our armed forces.”
One of the transgender service members represented in the lawsuit explained the harm the ban would create, “Last year, the Department of Defense announced that transgender people could serve openly. 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.”
Other LGBTQ legal rights groups are also prepared to take Trump to court if the ban is installed, including Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN. Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN said, “Should this White House give a directive or guidance to the Department of Defense that changes, modifies, or even slightly alters the current policy we will swiftly challenge them in court.”
Additionally, Trump’s argument that transgender service member place a financial burden on the military is also under question. The Hill reported that, “The Palm Center released a report on Wednesday that estimates it would cost $960 million or $75,000 per person to recruit and train replacements for the estimated 12,800 transgender troops servicing in the armed forces.” The Palm Center report also noted research from The Rand Corporation, a global think-tank, which, “estimates the government would only save $8.4 million per year in the cost of medical care for transgender troops if the ban were put in place.”
The Palm Center’s director and co-author of the report, Aaron Belkin said, “If President Trump is truly concerned about the financial costs of transgender service his announced ban has it exactly backwards. American taxpayers should ask the president, who is proud of his business savvy, why he’s spending a dollar to buy a dime.”