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Active-duty military members sue Trump over transgender ban

By: Robert Barnes, The Washington Post
August 9, 2017 Updated: August 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm
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Veteran Bill Thomas stands at a rally for transgender military rights, holding a sign picturing military coffins Friday, July 28, 2017, at city hall. Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette

Five active-duty service members sued President Donald Trump Wednesday over his intentions to ban transgender personnel from serving in the military.

"The directive to reinstate a ban on open service by transgender people violates both the Equal Protection component of the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution," states the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington by five anonymous "Jane Does."

They are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

Trump announced in a series of tweets on July 27 that "the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."

The military has not issued a policy on how that directive would be carried out. The suit states that "upon information and belief, the White House turned [Trump's] decision into official guidance, approved by the White House counsel's office, to be communicated to the Department of Defense."

Since the Obama administration lifted the ban on transgender troops in June 2016, hundreds of service members have come out and are serving openly. A Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon last year estimates that there are about 11,000 transgender troops in the reserves and active-duty military.

All five of the plaintiffs said they relied on the 2016 policy change when they notified commanding officers they were transgender. Besides the constitutional challenges, they ask the court to find Trump's intentions would be a violation of the promises government has made to members of the military.

"Because they identified themselves as transgender in reliance on defendants' earlier promise, plaintiffs have lost the stability and certainty they had in their careers and benefits, including post-military and retirement benefits that depend on the length of their service," the suit states.

The suit is expected to be the first of several filed once the ban is officially issued.

The plaintiffs are a Coast Guard member who has written a prospective letter of resignation; an Air Force active-duty service member of nearly 20 years who served twice in Iraq and three Army soldiers.

In a news release, one plaintiff says: "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."

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