Groups seek to halt Donald Trump transgender military policy change

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Two LGBT-rights organizations asked a federal judge in Washington on Thursday to bar President Donald Trump from changing the government’s policy on military service by transgender people.

The groups, backed by several former military leaders, filed a motion asking the judge to grant a preliminary injunction to keep Trump from reversing course on a 2016 policy change that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly.

Trump slammed that change in a memo last Friday and announced he was directing a return to the former policy under which service members could be discharged for being transgender. Trump directed the Pentagon to extend indefinitely a ban on transgender individuals joining the military, and he gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis six months to come up with a policy on “how to address” those who are currently serving, leaving the door open to permitting their continued service.

Until Mattis has made that determination, “no action may be taken against” the currently serving transgender individuals. Trump also directed Mattis to halt the use of federal funds to pay for sexual reassignment surgeries and medications, except in cases where it is deemed necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun the transition.

Lawsuits challenging the changes have been filed in courts in Washington, Seattle and Baltimore.

The Washington lawsuit was filed earlier this month after Trump wrote on Twitter in July that the federal government “will not accept or allow” transgender individuals to serve “in any capacity” in the military, statements that preceded his memo last Friday. The groups behind the lawsuit, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, say the memo’s changes would violate service members’ constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

As part of the preliminary injunction motion filed Thursday, former military leaders said in court papers that changing the open service policy would be harmful. The former officials – including former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and former Army Secretary Eric Fanning – served during the Obama administration, which in June 2016 changed longstanding policy to allow troops to serve openly as transgender individuals.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

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