Suit tar­gets trans­gen­der pol­icy

Five mil­i­tary mem­bers seek to pre­vent pres­i­dent’s pro­posed ban

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - AN­DREW HAR­RIS In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Erik Lar­son of Bloomberg News.

WASH­ING­TON — Five mem­bers of the U.S. armed forces filed a law­suit Wed­nes­day against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and top mil­i­tary brass, seek­ing to stop them from ban­ning trans­gen­der peo­ple from serv­ing “in any ca­pac­ity.”

With the law­suit, which seeks to pre­vent the pres­i­dent from re­vers­ing a pol­icy put in place by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, a fed­eral judge is once again be­ing asked to ref­eree a clash in the coun­try’s es­ca­lat­ing cul­ture war. Since Trump took of­fice in Jan­uary, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has en­gaged in le­gal bat­tles over shifts in pol­icy in­volv­ing im­mi­gra­tion and gay rights.

The ser­vice mem­bers, who are su­ing anony­mously, are al­ready mem­bers of the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. They say they dis­closed their gen­der ori­en­ta­tion re­ly­ing on the ex­ist­ing pol­icy that per­mits them to serve openly.

The shift an­nounced July 26 by Trump on Twit­ter vi­o­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, the ser­vice mem­bers said in a com­plaint filed Wed­nes­day in fed­eral court in Wash­ing­ton. The change hasn’t been im­ple­mented.

“We do not com­ment on ac­tive or pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion,” the White House press of­fice said in an email. De­fense Depart­ment spokesman Dana White said in a state­ment that the Pen­tagon is still await­ing for­mal guid­ance from the White House.

U.S. Ma­rine Corps Gen. Joseph Dun­ford Jr., who is chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a named de­fen­dant in the case, pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged the un­cer­tainty en­gen­dered by the pres­i­dent’s an­nounce­ment.

“I know there are ques­tions about yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment on the trans­gen­der pol­icy by the pres­i­dent,” Dun­ford said July 27. “There will be no mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the cur­rent pol­icy un­til the pres­i­dent’s di­rec­tion has been re­ceived by the sec­re­tary of de­fense and the sec­re­tary has is­sued im­ple­men­ta­tion guid­ance.”

The lead plain­tiff, who iden­ti­fies her­self as Jane Doe 1, has sub­mit­ted a prospec­tive let­ter of res­ig­na­tion to the Coast Guard, stat­ing she’d rather walk away vol­un­tar­ily than be ter­mi­nated be­cause of her gen­der, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. Doe 1 said she would with­draw the res­ig­na­tion if the ad­min­is­tra­tion aban­doned its plan.

Three other Jane Doe plain­tiffs serve in the U.S. Army, in­clud­ing Doe 3, who has al­ready served in Afghanistan and “ex­pects to be de­ployed to Iraq soon,” ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing. The fifth plain­tiff is a 20-year U.S. Air Force vet­eran,who has served two tours of duty in Iraq.

“Jane Doe 5’s liveli­hood de­pends on her mil­i­tary ser­vice. Sep­a­ra­tion from the mil­i­tary would have dev­as­tat­ing fi­nan­cial and emo­tional con­se­quences for her,” ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

Trump’s con­tem­plated re­ver­sal would vi­o­late the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion’s guar­an­tee of equal pro­tec­tion and has no ra­tio­nal ba­sis, the plain­tiffs al­lege. It would also de­prive them of their mil­i­tary ca­reers with­out due process, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

Treat­ment of trans­gen­der peo­ple has be­come a flash point as so­cial con­ser­va­tives in some states push to re­quire stu­dents and some­times adults to use school and pub­lic re­strooms cor­re­spond­ing to their gen­der at birth.

In three tweets last month, Trump out­lined his rea­son­ing for re­vers­ing the Obama pol­icy on trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als in the mil­i­tary.

“Af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with my Gen­er­als and mil­i­tary ex­perts, please be ad­vised that the United States Gov­ern­ment will not ac­cept or al­low Trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als to serve in any ca­pac­ity in the U.S. Mil­i­tary. Our mil­i­tary must be fo­cused on the de­ci­sive and over­whelm­ing vic­tory and can­not be bur­dened with the tremen­dous med­i­cal costs and dis­rup­tion that trans­gen­der in the mil­i­tary would en­tail. Thank you,” he said in his tweets.

The Mil­i­tary Times pointed out that the cost of pro­vid­ing Vi­a­gra to mem­bers of the armed forces is at least 10 times the costs as­so­ci­ated with gen­der re­as­sign­ment.

The ser­vice mem­bers’ law­suit was filed by at­tor­neys from the Wash­ing­ton-based WilmerHale law firm, Bos­ton-based Fo­ley Hoag LLP and the Na­tional Cen­ter for Les­bian Rights. Also named as de­fen­dants are Sec­re­tary of De­fense James Mat­tis, act­ing Sec­re­tary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Air Force Sec­re­tary Heather Wil­son.

“Be­sides the harm to the ser­vice mem­bers and peo­ple who want to en­list, what’s most up­set­ting about this is for the trans­gen­der kids out there in so­ci­ety, for their pres­i­dent to say that they are in­her­ently a dis­rup­tion, that they shouldn’t be able to serve,” said Jon David­son, a di­rec­tor of the ad­vo­cacy group Lambda Le­gal, which isn’t in­volved in the ser­vice mem­bers’ law­suit. “That’s a ter­ri­ble mes­sage to be send­ing to young peo­ple.”

The case is Doe 1 v. Trump.

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