Federal Judge Says US Military Must Accept Transgender Troops In New Year

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Monday blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, after five transgender service members filed a lawsuit against the President’s orders.

Trump announced his decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military in “any capacity” in a tweet in July. He made it official with a memorandum in August, saying it was unclear whether transgender troops serving openly would impact “military readiness and lethality” and claiming any medical needs of transgender individuals, like gender reassignment surgeries and hormones, would be too expensive for the Department of Defense to pay for.

President Barack Obama’s administration lifted the ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military in June 2016. The Obama-era policy was supposed to go into full effect in July 2017.

At the end of June, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he wanted to push back the enlistment date six months so the Department of Defense could further review the policy. After Trump announced his ban, Mattis said his department was still reviewing the policy.

In October, the D.C.-based Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly issued an injunction that would force Trump to allow transgender individuals to enlist openly beginning Jan. 1. The second injunction was issued Monday to clarify that the Department of Defense cannot defer the Jan. 1 deadline for allowing enlistment any further, according to court documents.

Kollar-Kotelly isn’t the first federal judge to rule against Trump’s ban. In a parallel lawsuit, Maryland-based federal Judge Marvin Garbis last week temporarily blocked Trump’s directive and called his tweets about the policy change “shocking” as well as “capricious, arbitrary and unqualified.”

Garbis’ order will not only temporarily allows transgender troops to openly enlist in the military, but also allows current service members to receive any scheduled transition-related medical care, according to court documents obtained by NPR.

“President Trump’s tweets did not emerge from a policy review, nor did the Presidential Memorandum identify any policymaking process or evidence demonstrating that the revocation of transgender rights was necessary for any legitimate national interest,” Garbis wrote in his directive last week. “Based on the circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement and the departure from normal procedure, the court agrees wit the D.C. court that there is sufficient support for plaintiff’s claims that ‘the decision to exclude transgender individuals was not derived by genuine concern regarding military efficacy.”

Both cases are still pending in federal court, but the injunctions released in recent weeks indicate the Garbis and Kollar-Kotelly believe the plaintiffs are likely to win their suit.

Read Kollar-Kotelly’s Monday injunction here.