Advocates Sue Over Trump's Transgender Troop Ban

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2015 file photo, Transgender soldier Capt. Jennifer Peace holds a flag as she stands for a photo near her home in Spanaway, Wash. (Drew Perine/The News Tribune via AP)

Two advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of five service members against President Donald Trump's proposed ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.

The suit charging that the ban would violate due process and equal protection rights under the Constitution was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

The suit quotes a service member and plaintiff as saying, "Last year, the Department of Defense announced that transgender people could serve openly. I was very relieved and came out as transgender to my commanding officers, who were supportive.

"My experience has been positive and I am prouder than ever to continue to serve. I am married and have three children, and the military has been my life. But now, I'm worried about my family's future," the plaintiff said.

On July 26, Trump went on Twitter to declare that the government would not "accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military."

Trump's action appeared to blindside the Pentagon, which was in the process of a six-month review ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to hear out the service chiefs on the integration of transgender personnel.

On July 27, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford issued a statement indicating that the military would not be making any changes on transgender personnel until Trump made clear his intentions.

"There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance," Dunford said in a memo to the service chiefs and senior enlisted advisers. To date, there has been no guidance from the White House.

"Transgender service members have been blindsided by this shift and are scrambling to deal with what it means for their futures and their families," said Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and NCLR Legal Director. "The president's mistreatment of these dedicated troops will serve only to weaken and demoralize our armed forces."

The Human Rights Campaign advocacy group estimates that more than 15,000 transgender personnel currently are serving in the military.

Defense Department officials have declined to estimate how many transgender personnel are currently serving, but have said that there are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender.

A Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Pentagon estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the Reserves and National Guard.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.