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FILE PHOTO: People protest U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, in New York City, New York, U.S., July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo


(Reuters) - Civil rights groups filed two lawsuits on Monday challenging President Donald Trump's controversial ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.

Both lawsuits say the ban violated U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process under the Fifth Amendment, and one said it also violates service members' free speech rights.

“We do not comment on active or pending litigation," a White House official said.

Trump announced the ban in a series of Twitter posts on July 26, reversing a policy of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

It halted years of efforts to eliminate barriers to military service based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including an "Open Service Directive" designed to let transgender people serve without fear of discharge.

"President Trump cast aside the rigorous, evidence-based policy of the Open Service Directive, and replaced it with discredited myths and stereotypes, uninformed speculation, and animus against people who are transgender," according to one of the lawsuits, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ban was widely seen as an appeal by Trump, a Republican, to his conservative political base.

Civil rights groups and some politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties accused Trump of politically motivated discrimination, and some senior military officials were caught off guard by the announcement.

Roughly 2,500 active duty personnel are transgender, according to a RAND Corporation study cited last year by Obama's defense secretary, Ash Carter.

One lawsuit was filed in Baltimore federal court by the ACLU on behalf of six transgender people serving in several branches of the military.

The second lawsuit was filed in Seattle federal court by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN on behalf of an Army staff sergeant, two transgender people who wish to join the military and various other groups.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)

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