ACLU, Lambda Legal Respond To Trump's Trans Ban With Lawsuits

The ban "compromises safety and security," they argue.

Two legal nonprofits slapped President Donald Trump with lawsuits Monday over his directive to ban transgender recruits from enlisting in the military.

Lambda Legal, a national legal nonprofit focused on LGBTQ issues and based in New York, teamed up with the OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) in filing a suit against the Trump administration Monday, stating that they side with “every single transgender service member and those who want to serve.”

Lambda Legal officials made the announcement on Twitter Monday morning.

Just minutes later, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) echoed those sentiments in announcing its own lawsuit, arguing that the ban singles out trans individuals for “unequal and discriminatory treatment” and is therefore unconstitutional.

The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of five current members of the armed forces who identify as transgender: Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, Senior Airman John Doe, Airman First Class Seven Ero George, Petty Officer First Class Teagan Gilbert, and Technical Sergeant Tommie Parker. The complaint, which can be read in full here, slams Trump’s motivation for the ban as “purely political” and “reflecting a desire to accommodate legislators” in an effort to secure funding for the planned border wall with Mexico.

“Each and every claim made by President Trump to justify this ban can be easily debunked by the conclusions drawn from the Department of Defense’s own review process. Allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly and providing them with necessary health care does nothing to harm military readiness or unit cohesion,” Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a press release sent to HuffPost Monday. “Men and women who are transgender with the courage and capacity to serve deserve more from their commander-in-chief.”

Meanwhile, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ryan Karnoski and Drew Layne, who identify as trans and are hoping to enlist, as well as Cathrine Schmid, a 12-year U.S. Army member is seeking an appointment as an officer, as well as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Gender Justice League.

“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. “Once again attacking a vulnerable population based on bias, political opportunism and demonstrably untrue ‘alternative facts,’ President Trump is denying brave men and women the opportunity to serve our country without any legitimate justification whatsoever.”

News that Trump had directed the Department of Defense to stop accepting trans people who enlist for military service was another stinging, if anticipated, blow to a community that has been dealt a series of devastating setbacks since the president took office.

“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, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects,” Trump’s memo read.

A number of lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates blasted the president in the wake of the news, with many implying that his delivery of the memo just as Hurricane Harvey was barreling toward Texas was in particularly bad taste.

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Transgender Military Photo Series by Jeff Sheng