Metro Weekly

D.C. federal judge refuses to lift order blocking Pentagon from implementing transgender ban

Judge reiterates that "revised" plan to ban transgender service members isn't substantially different from a sweeping ban

The Pentagon. Photo: Department of Defense – Photo: Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has once again refused to stay an injunction she previously issued preventing the Pentagon from moving forward with a ban on transgender service members.

On Nov. 30, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a motion from the Trump administration asking her to allow the proposed ban to be implemented while the case moves forward.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is currently attempting to circumvent potentially unfavorable rulings in lower courts by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case before any of the lower courts have heard arguments for or against the ban based on its merits.

In her ruling last week, Kollar-Kotelly noted that this was the government’s third motion requesting that she stay or dissolve the injunction, and stated that there are no circumstances that have changed that would require her to revisit her prior decision.

“Upon consideration of the pleadings, the relevant legal authorities, and the record as it currently stands, the Court concludes that a stay is not warranted,” she wrote. “Defendants have not proven that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their appeal, that they face irreparable harm, that Plaintiffs would not be harmed by a stay, or that public interest favors a stay. Accordingly, Defendants’ Motion is denied.”

The Trump administration has previously argued that a revised implementation plan, issued by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis earlier this year, which would prohibit transgender individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who have undergone gender confirmation surgery from serving. The administration claims this is a much more narrowly-tailored ban, as it does not prohibit every transgender individual from serving.

But Kollar-Kotelly has found before, and reiterated in her most recent ruling, that the Mattis Implementation Plan and the sweeping ban floated via Twitter by President Trump last year are not substantially different.

“The Court found that, although the Mattis Implementation Plan was longer and more detailed, it was not materially different from the 2017 Presidential Memorandum that preceded it in that it effectively prevents military service by transgender individuals,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote. “Most relevantly, the Mattis Implementation Plan prohibits military service by those with ‘gender dysphoria’ and those who have undergone or require ‘gender transition,’ both of which function as euphemisms for transgender status.

“The plan does allow transgender individuals to serve in the military if they do so in their biological sex,” she adds. “But, given that, by definition, transgender individuals do not identify or live in accord with their biological sex, the Court concluded that ‘[t]olerating a person with a certain characteristic only on the condition that they renounce that characteristic is the same as not tolerating them at all.'”

Jennifer Levi, the director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, criticized the administration for its repeated attempts to move forward with the ban.

“The Trump administration is taking desperate measures to avoid continued compliance with Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s injunction,” Levi said in a statement. “But there is nothing to which they can point to justify excluding from the military transgender people who meet all fitness and readiness standards. Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s order reconfirms that  a ban would cause grave harm not only to transgender service members, but to the military itself.”

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

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