Two weeks after President Trump announced via Twitter that he was going to ban transgender military members, a lawsuit has been filed to block the tweet from becoming policy.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in San Francisco and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of five transgender active-duty service members.
The plaintiffs currently serve in the Coast Guard, National Guard and the Army, including one who expects to be deployed to Iraq soon.
The plaintiffs -- identified as Jane Doe 1 through 5 -- allege that after being told by the Obama administration last year that they could serve openly, they now fear being kicked out of the military.
The legal complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., states that "execution of the President’s directive will result in an end to service by openly transgender service members and has already resulted in immediate, concrete injury to Plaintiffs by unsettling and destabilizing plaintiffs’ reasonable expectation of continued service."
It claims violation of the plaintiffs' equal protection and due process rights under the U.S. Constitution by banning their service without any justification.
A report by the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica found transgender people were "fit to serve, and that allowing them to serve openly would have minimal financial costs or impact on readiness."
Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, is one of the attorneys representing the service members. He calls changing the policy a year after it was implemented “shameful.”
"I mean that is cruel, irrational, harmful, very harmful to our nation’s military," Minter told KQED.
He added that the sudden announcement by Trump two weeks ago -- without spelling out any details of what the new policy would be -- caught transgender service members by complete surprise.
"They were just blindsided and left with no way to make plans about their future re-enlistment," Minter said. "They don’t know if they’re losing their jobs, their health care, their benefits."
A spokesman for the Defense Department declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying only that they were working with the White House to develop a written policy.
One question is: Can a lawsuit against a policy not yet written succeed in blocking it from being implemented? UC Hastings emeritus law professor David Levine said the legal challenge is "reasonable, and not premature," given that the plaintiffs all have existing contracts with the military.
"I do think it would be quite a strong argument for saying, at least as to currently serving members of the armed forces, that they should not be forced out at this point," Levine said. He added that singling out transgender people for the military ban was "irrational," given studies showing allowing them to serve openly would have minimal costs and impact on troop readiness.
Estimates on how many transgender people currently serve in the military vary widely, but Rand Corp. recently estimated there were more than 6,600 on the high end.