On Monday, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration’s decision to ban transgender people from enlisting or serving in the military. The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Maryland on behalf of five current transgender servicemembers, argues that the ban is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Trump has defended the ban with a flimsy claim that the costs associated with healthcare for transgender individuals are too high for the military to cover. (The medical costs are a fraction of total medical costs for active military members.)
The Department of Defense announced in 2016 that transgender individuals could openly serve in the military with equal rights and without fear of retribution, after conducting a yearlong study on the issue. “Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly, and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender,” said former Defense Secretary Ash Carter last June. He added that “we’re eliminating policies that can result in transgender service members being treated differently from their peers based solely upon their gender identity, rather than their ability to serve.”
“And we’re confirming that going forward we will apply the same general principles, standards, and procedures to transgender service members as we do to all service members,” he concluded.
The Trump administration, however, seeks to reverse this policy and has sought to limit the rights of transgender individuals pretty much since Trump’s inauguration. Already, the Justice and Education Departments have withdrawn support of Obama-era protections for equal access to bathrooms in public schools.
“Each and every claim made by the 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,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, in a press release. “Men and women who are transgender with the courage and capacity to serve deserve more from their commander-in-chief.”