Lawsuit filed challenging Trump administration ban

By Anamika Roy
BridgeTower Media Newswires
BALTIMORE, MD — Six transgender members of the armed forces and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in Maryland this week against the Trump administration over its ban on transgender people serving in the military.

“The Trump administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly,” states the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The lead plaintiff, Petty Officer First Class Brock Stone, is stationed in Fort Meade.

President Donald Trump, in a July 26 tweet announcing the ban, said transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity.” The lawsuit alleges the ban is politically motivated, a way for Trump to gain votes for a border wall with Mexico.

Trump told Secretary of Defense James Mattis to return to the pre-2016 policy of banning service by transgender men and women, according to the lawsuit. He also banned the use of government resources to pay for “sex-reassignment surgical procedures” for service members regardless of cost or medical necessity, according to the lawsuit.

In 2016, the Department of Defense completed a review process that found no basis to exclude transgender people from the military, and that they could be subjected to the same fitness standards as their peers.

Based on those findings, the department issued a directive that transgender individuals could serve openly without fear of being discharged and would receive health care, the lawsuit states.

“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,” Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. “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.”

‘Expect fair treatment’

Stone, who is assigned at a unit in Fort Meade through at least August 2020, has served in the U.S. Navy for 11 years, including a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, the lawsuit states.
He received a medal for his deployment among other commendations.

Stone is getting treatment related to his gender transition at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, the lawsuit states. Before Trump issued the ban, Stone was close to picking a treatment plan that would include surgery, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit was filed in Maryland because Stone, the lead plaintiff, resides in the state, ACLU of Maryland is co-counsel and because of its proximity to Washington, said an ACLU of Maryland spokeswoman.

“Our state has strong anti-discrimination protections for transgender Marylanders, who should be able to expect the same fair treatment from the nation they are sworn to serve,” said co-counsel Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, in a statement.

Besides Stone, the lawsuit was also filed on behalf of the ACLU of Maryland and five other transgender people currently serving in the armed forces: Airman First Class Seven Ero George, Petty Officer First Class Teagan Gilbert, Staff Sergeant Kate Cole and Technical Sergeant Tommie Parker and a senior airman identified only as John Doe.

The majority of the plaintiffs have at least a decade of experience in the armed forces, the lawsuit states.

The service members and the ACLU argue the ban is a violation of the equal protection component in the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the ban violates substantive due process, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, who also are represented by Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, are asking the court to stop the administration from enforcing the ban.

Mark Procopio, executive director of FreeState Justice, a legal advocacy organization for LGBT Marylanders, voiced support for the lawsuit.

“This arbitrary and unconstitutional ban targets transgender service members who are serving our country,” he said. “This is another example of actions this administration is taking to erase LGBT people out of public life. We must fight back against these attempts to make our community invisible.”

A second lawsuit challenging the ban was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.