Trump announced in late July via Twitter that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to enlist or serve in the military
US defense officials have indicated that they were caught off guard by the policy change
Five active duty transgender service members filed the first lawsuit Wednesday against President Donald Trump’s directive – expressed on Twitter – to prohibit transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces.
The service members, who are not named, all say they have relied on the Defense Department’s current policy permitting open service by transgender service members and argue Trump’s ban, which may result in early termination or failure to renew their contracts, is unconstitutional.
The President’s three-tweet plan to stop transgender individuals from serving in the military has yet to be formally implemented, but attorneys for the service members have asked a federal court in Washington to block it immediately.
Trump’s directive has “already resulted in immediate, concrete injury to Plaintiffs by unsettling and destabilizing plaintiffs’ reasonable expectation of continued service,” they argue in a court filing, adding that the White House has turned Trump’s tweets into “official guidance, approved by the White House counsel’s office, to be communicated to the Department of Defense.”
The Defense Department is still awaiting formal guidance on implementation from the White House, spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick told CNN.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Trump’s decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under the Obama administration that allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.
Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter allowed for a year-long review process to give the Pentagon time to assess how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military, and current Defense Secretary James Mattis announced in June that he was delaying the implementation of the new policy, saying he needed more time to review it.
But the service members say the Obama-era policy created an expectation they relied on, including informing their commanding officers they are transgender and undergoing medical treatment related to gender transition.
“Because they identified themselves as transgender in reliance on (the Obama-era) earlier promise, Plaintiffs have lost the stability and certainty they had in their careers and benefits, including post-military and retirement benefits that depend on the length of their service,” attorneys for the service members wrote in the court filing. “Plaintiffs have served honorably and successfully in the military since coming out as transgender, and their transgender status has not had any detrimental effect on their ability to serve or to fulfill their duties.”
CNN’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report.