Judge Blocks Trump's Transgender Ban
It took President Obama years of activist pressure for his administration to finally allow transgender Americans to serve openly in the American military in June 2016, and have their medical needs covered. It took Donald Trump, with his penchant for legislation by tweet-storm, mere minutes to try to reinstate the ban. On Monday, however, a federal judge decided that perhaps Twitter is not, in fact, the letter of the law, and denied the Trump administration's request to delay an order requiring the military to recruit and admit transgender troops on Jan. 1, 2018.
The administration, as the Washington Post reports, already upset that it lost an earlier battle to make its ban legal in March, requested a stay on the deadline, claiming it did not have sufficient time. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote, "The Court is not persuaded that Defendants will be irreparably injured by” the January deadline, especially considering, the judge continued, the government has "had the opportunity to prepare for the accession of transgender individuals into the military for nearly one and a half years," and "considerable work has already been done," to integrate openly serving transgender troops into various branches of the U.S. military.
The latest ruling reiterates Judge Kollar-Kotelly's earlier opinion blocking Trump's attempt to reinstate the ban, which might, according to the Post, "have forced the dismissal of current service members starting in March."
Activists cheered Monday's decision. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, which researches issues of sexual orientation in the military, told USA Today, “Today's announcement that the U.S. military will accept transgender applicants as of January 1, 2018, reflects a simple reality: military and civil servants in the Pentagon have been preparing for accession for transgender Americans for more than two years."
The future for transgender troops, however, is not set in stone. As Mark Joseph Stern notes on Slate, it's not quite time to celebrate, especially because there's still time for appeals:
"A higher court may well put Kollar-Kotelly’s order on hold before the new year arrives. The Trump administration will almost certainly seek a stay; it filed a notice of appeal in both cases, indicating that it plans to fight these rulings aggressively. And there is still ample time for a higher court—perhaps even the Supreme Court—to intervene and stay Kollar-Kotelly’s decision."
It took years of studies showing the contributions of transgender troops, not to mention the negligible cost of health care and sex reassignment surgeries, to persuade the Obama-era Pentagon, first to allow currently serving transgender troops to come out, and then to admit new recruits. As much as many Americans want to believe that supposedly cooler heads like Secretary of Defense James Mattis will somehow prevail, he serves at the pleasure of the transphobic president. It's not too late for a better conclusion, but as Stern warns, "the uncertainty surrounding trans service may dissuade many trans people from enlisting until the legal questions are resolved."