Federal judge smacks down the Trump administration's claim that it can now enforce its military transgender ban
On Tuesday, a federal judge dealt a blow to President Donald Trump, ruling that his Justice Department was mistaken in claiming that recent federal court decisions had cleared the way to enforce his proposed ban on transgender military service.
BuzzFeed News explained the intricacies of the court case, which temporarily leaves in place an injunction that bars the administration from implementing the policy:
The underlying legal situation is complicated. The case is one of four in which judges issued nationwide injunctions that blocked the policy from being implemented. Courts had lifted three of the injunctions while all of the legal challenges continue — though the status of this fourth injunction in the DC court was disputed.
The Justice Department argued that when the DC Court of Appeals vacated the injunction in January, it ceased to exist and the Pentagon was free to instate a ban. LGBT advocacy lawyers countered that the appellate court still hadn’t issued a mandate to lift the injunction, because a series of procedural steps had to first be undertaken while the plaintiffs decide to request a rehearing.
The Trump administration issued its memo to set up the ban anyway.
But Washington, D.C. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly smacked down the DOJ. "Defendants were incorrect in claiming that there was no longer an impediment," she wrote. "Defendants remain bound by this Court's preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo."
President Barack Obama lifted a longstanding ban on transgender military service in June 2016. But Trump announced he would be reinstating the ban in July 2017, not long after Fox News host Tucker Carlson compared the transgender community to "child abuse." The administration claims that the ban is necessary to prevent medical costs associated with gender reassignment from impacting military readiness, even though empirical evidence from other countries that have allowed transgender military service shows that this does not impact military readiness, costs the military virtually nothing, and expands the recruitment pool.
Last year, in an attempt to stave off the mounting legal challenges, the administration revised the ban to specifically apply to people with a "history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria" who are have not been "stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession." But this would still apply to the majority of openly transgender servicemembers.