Metro Weekly

Federal court halts Trump’s transgender military ban

Pentagon will be prevented from implementing trans-exclusionary policy until the courts rule whether it is constitutional

Photo: Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade, U.S. Army, via Wikimedia.

On Monday afternoon, a federal court in Washington blocked the Trump administration’s planned implementation of a ban prohibiting transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military. 

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued the injunction, which prevents the Trump administration from implementing the ban as expected in March 2018, if at all. That means the policy is effectively frozen and cannot move forward until the question of whether the ban is constitutional is resolved by the courts.

“This is a complete victory for our plaintiffs and all transgender service members, who are now once again able to serve on equal terms and without the threat of being discharged,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of two co-counsels representing five anonymous active duty service members and two college students who had wished to enlist and pursue careers in military service.

“We are grateful to the court for recognizing the gravity of these issues and putting a stop to this dangerous policy, which has wreaked havoc in the lives of transgender service members and their families,” added Minter.

The lawsuit, known as Doe v. Trump, is one of four currently challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to prohibit transgender individuals from serving, enlisting or re-enlisting, or enrolling in service academies, and seeks to justify refusals to pay for their medical expenses, including any transition-related treatments or procedures that have been deemed medically necessary.

“This court saw straight through the smokescreen the government tried to create to hide the bias and prejudice behind Trump’s change in military policy,” Jennifer Levi, the director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders’ Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement. This clear, powerful ruling confirms there is no legitimate reason to exclude transgender people from military service.”

The Trump administration had previously responded to both the Doe v. Trump lawsuit and Stockman v. Trump, a sister lawsuit out of California also brought by NCLR and GLAD, arguing that transgender people had suffered no injury or “irreparable” because the Obama-era policy of open military service is slated to continue through February 2018 under interim guidance introduced by the Pentagon in September.

But LGBTQ advocates noted that transgender individuals have already had their lives impacted by the ban, which creates great uncertainty for them and their families going forward. And, they argued, once the March 2018 deadline arrived, and the Pentagon issued final guidance regarding transgender service, the harm would only become more apparent.

The court’s decision to issue the injunction was issued in lieu of an oral argument in the Doe case. But despite the injunction, NCLR and GLAD are scheduled to appear on Nov. 20 to argue in favor of an injunction in the Stockman case. Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union, which is heading a third challenge to the ban in a case out of Maryland, remains scheduled to appear in federal court in Baltimore on Nov. 9 for its own set of oral arguments.

“This is the first decision striking down President Trump’s ban, but it won’t be the last,” Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. “The federal courts are recognizing what everyone already knows to be true: President Trump’s impulsive decision to ban on transgender people from serving in the military service was blatantly unconstitutional. As all of these cases move forward, we will continue to work to ensure that transgender service members are treated with the equal treatment they deserve.”

The Human Rights Campaign cheered the injunction as an important milestone in protecting transgender individuals from what it called the “dangerous and discriminatory” policies of the Trump administration.

“Donald Trump’s erratic tweets and half-baked orders disrespect the bravery of the countless transgender people who have fought, and in many cases died, for their country,” Sarah Warbelow, HRC’s legal director, said in a statement. “The immediate harm to our national defense and to the thousands of transgender people serving and wishing to serve their country must be stopped — and we are grateful that a federal judge has blocked this administration from discharging any qualified individuals because of their gender identity while these cases continue to make their way through the courts.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com