A federal judge has refused the Trump administration’s attempt to delay the Jan. 1 deadline by which the military must begin accepting out transgender recruits.
Last week, the Trump administration filed a last-minute appeal asking for a partial stay in the case of Doe v. Trump, one of four legal challenges to Trump’s ban prohibiting transgender individuals from serving in the military.
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the District Court for the District of Columbia, rejected that request.
Under the current Department of Defense policy, originally approved by President Obama’s Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the Pentagon was expected to begin accepting transgender recruits starting in July 2017.
But military leaders asked for a 6-month delay, to allow them to further prepare for accepting out transgender recruits seeking to enlist.
Kollar-Kotelly previously issued an injunction in October that barred the Pentagon from implementing the ban and kept in place the Obama-era policy until the legal fight over whether the ban is constitutional is resolved in the courts.
In its filing, the Trump administration claimed that the military is not ready to accept transgender recruits, and that forcing the various branches to accept those recruits would negatively impact military readiness, according to the Marine Corps Times.
But both military experts and LGBTQ advocates pushed back against the Trump administration’s claims, arguing that it was simply trying to delay the inevitable. Among those seeking to debunk those claims were the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, which are representing transgender plaintiffs in both Doe v. Trump and a California-based lawsuit known as Stockman v. Trump.
“Trump administration claims that our highly sophisticated military is unprepared to implement a minor policy change after more than a year of preparation are simply not credible,” Shannon Minter, the legal director at NCLR, said in a statement. “The military has studied this issue extensively and determined that permitting qualified transgender people to enlist and serve will only strengthen our nation’s armed forces. This administration’s claim that allowing transgender people to enlist will lessen military preparedness is contradicted by the military’s own conclusions.”
As part of its filing, NCLR and GLAD included declarations from former U.S. Secretary of the Navy Raymond Edwin Mabus, Jr., and military expert, scholar, and veteran Dr. George Richard Brown. Mabus stated that, based on his experience, allowing transgender recruits to enlist is not a complicated process, and that the bulk of the preparation needed to accommodate those troops was finished when he left office more than a year ago. Brown echoed this conclusion, writing in his testimony: “Based on my knowledge and experience, I do not agree that the military will be either unprepared or overwhelmed on January 1, 2018 to implement the transgender enlistment policy.”
The Palm Center, a think tank that studies LGBTQ inclusion in the military, has previously estimated that the proposed ban will cost nearly $960 million to implement. In addition, the Palm Center has obtained statements from Eric Fanning, the former Secretary of the Army, and Brad Carson, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, that allowing transgender recruits to enlist would not be as complicated as the Trump administration claims.
“The Department of Defense was on track to lift the accession ban for transgender service effective July 1, 2017. This was one year after Secretary Carter ordered the Services to ensure that all Americans who could meet the standards should be afforded the opportunity to serve,” Fanning said in his statement. “I can see no reason why the Department should not be fully prepared to execute Secretary Carter’s policy change, particularly after being afforded an extra six months due to the Department’s delay earlier this year.”
“The Pentagon had already done most of the preparation and training in anticipation of the lifting of the accession ban before the presidential transition, so to claim that the military is not ready to lift the ban now seems a stretch,” Carson added.
Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, has noted that there is nothing special about accepting transgender recruits, as recruiters and military examiners deal with medical documents for every candidate, and handle the confirmation of identity documents, name changes, and other paperwork on a regular basis.
“It’s time to stop stalling and move forward,” Jennifer Levi, the director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement. “The military has had nearly a year and a half to be ready to implement an enlistment policy its own leaders created and adopted. High ranking military leaders who oversaw training when the military made the first changes to transgender service policies have said the military is ready to accept transgender enlistees. This administration needs to stop creating fake problems and get on with it.”
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