Three former secretaries of the US Army, Navy, and Air Force have officially added their support to a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s order banning transgender service members. Their voices add to a growing chorus of current and former military leaders who believe the ban will harm the military by expelling able-bodied troops.
Former Army Secretary Eric Fanning, former Navy Secretary Raymond Mabus Jr., and former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James wrote individual declarations to the court saying their experiences showed there was no reason to ban transgender troops.
All were in the Obama administration when then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced transgender troops could serve openly on June 30, 2016. Former Army Undersecretary Brad Carson, who led the Obama administration’s Working Group that looked into the merits of transgender service in the military, also wrote a declaration. The Working Group found no harmful consequences of allowing transgender troops to serve.
“I am not aware of any evidence to support President Trump’s stated rationale for a total ban on transgender individuals serving in the military,” Fanning wrote in his declaration.
Their support is part of motion asking the US District Court for the District of Columbia to force the military to temporarily stop the ban until the case is resolved. “We are asking for emergency relief,” Shannon Minter, one of the lead lawyers for the case who works at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), told me in an interview. A ruling on the request is expected in the next few weeks.
The lawsuit, Doe v. Trump, represents eight transgender service members who want to stay in the military. The plaintiffs’ military experience ranges from three to 20 years, and some of them served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lawsuit was first filed in June 2016 with five “Jane Does,” but since then three new members joined.
One of the new plaintiffs who joined today is Reagan Kibby, a 19-year-old transgender midshipman at the US Naval Academy. He is one of the few publicly named plaintiffs.
"My main motivation for becoming part of this lawsuit was a sense of helplessness," Kibby told CNN. "Being in the military is something I've wanted for such a long time, and I've really worked hard for — I can see my future crumbling ahead of me because of the uncertainty that has resulted from the President's actions."
The service secretaries aren’t the only former military leaders who want to stop the ban. A group of 56 retired generals and admirals wrote a letter to Trump on August 1 calling on the president to reverse his decision. Signatories included retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who commanded troops in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, and it featured a statement by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is leading an effort to stop the ban in Congress.
This shows the resistance to Trump’s ban is growing and gaining more firepower. But for now, the ban is in place until a court or Congress stops it from happening.