The Trump administration has made its first legal defense of the president's order to roll back open transgender military service by asking a federal court to toss out a lawsuit by a group of transgender troops.
The Department of Justice filed a motion late Wednesday in D.C. district court arguing that the plaintiffs — five active-duty transgender troops, a Naval Academy midshipman, and an ROTC student — have not been harmed because no new personnel policy is in place yet.
The civil lawsuit, Doe v. Trump, was filed in August by troops who fear they could lose their military careers and was the first of four pending lawsuits stemming from Trump's tweets in July that transgender troops will no longer be allowed to serve in any capacity. Trump subsequently ordered the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Coast Guard, to come up with a plan to roll back the Obama administration initiative by February.
"Plaintiffs' lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature and should be dismissed for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the president ordered, and because none of the plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service," Lauren Ehrsam, a DOJ spokesperson, said in a released statement.
In the August order, the White House said the Obama administration did not adequately prove that open transgender service would not hamper the military's readiness and ability to fight.
The group of transgender troops in Doe v. Trump, who are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, have a deadline for responding to the DOJ motion later this month.
Jennifer Levi, a lead attorney with the GLAD group, called the administration's claim "pure fiction." The groups filed for a preliminary injunction to stop the administration from moving ahead while the case is being heard and said Thursday that transgender service members are being stigmatized, denied healthcare and face the loss of their profession.
"Every day this reckless ban stays in place, our military strength is diminished and our country is less safe for it," Levi said in a statement. "We are optimistic the court will see through this smokescreen and halt the ban."
Pentagon officials who oversaw the move to open transgender service during the Obama administration, including former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and former Army Secretary Eric Fanning, offered statements in support of the plaintiffs in August.
Federal lawsuits opposing a change in transgender policy have also been filed in Maryland, California, and Washington state.