Five transgender active U.S. military servicemembers sued President Donald Trump on Wednesday, alleging his proposed ban on transgender people from serving in the Armed Forces is unconstitutional and causes “devastating financial and emotional consequences” for transgender service members.
The first lawsuit challenging Trump’s ban calls for an immediate injunction to prevent the tweet from becoming policy. The complaint, filed in federal court, accuses Trump of violating the constitution's guarantees for due process and equal justice provided in the Fifth Amendment.
At least three of the five women who filed the suit transitioned while actively serving, and each plaintiff says being transgender has never affected their work performance. According to the complaint, they each outed themselves as transgender to their superiors according to protocol in 2016 when the Department of Defense announced it would allow transgender individuals to serve. Now they feel Trump’s tweet pulled the rug out from under them.
“They [notified superiors] in reliance on the United States’ express promises that it would permit them to continue to serve their country openly,” the complaint reads. “These servicemembers, like many others, have built their lives around their military service.”
One of the plaintiffs is two years away from serving 20 years in the military, which would allow her to retire. She now fears she could be dismissed at any time without pay. Another plaintiff was hoping to transition to a civilian life, but if she’s forced to leave the military now, she says she won’t have the education, training, or savings to start a new career. Another took immediate action when she heard the news of Trump’s tweet storm.
“[One of the plaintiffs] submitted a prospective letter of resignation stating that she would resign rather than be involuntarily terminated on account of her transgender status,” the lawsuit said.
She says she will only withdraw her resignation and continue to serve if the Department of Defense refuses to implement the policy.
The suit emphasizes transgender service members were given no warning that an announcement regarding their service was coming, or that their status in the military may be in jeopardy.
“The President’s announcement, which upon information and belief was made without consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff, upset the reasonable expectations of Plaintiffs and thousands of other transgender service members and the men and women with whom they serve and fight.”
Though Trump’s ban has not been executed, plaintiffs say the announcement has already been “unsettling,” “destabilizing,” and immediately damaging.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump tweeted on July 26.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in the days after the announcement that tweets from Trump do not constitute orders, and the military would continue to allow transgender service members to serve in the meantime.
Other defendants in the case include the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of Homeland Security.