Metro Weekly

Federal judge slaps down Trump administration’s efforts to jump-start trans service member ban

Administration cannot begin barring transgender troops until all appeals have been exhausted

Photo: Israel Palacio.

The Trump administration got its hand slapped by a federal judge who confirmed that the preliminary injunction she issued blocking the Pentagon from implementing its proposed ban on transgender service members remains in place.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the District of Columbia, penned a ruling noting that the injunction she issued in October 2017 remains in place until the appeals process in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has been exhausted.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a Jan. 4 unsigned ruling that Kollar-Kotelly had erred in concluding there was no substantial difference between the broad-based, categorical ban first floated by President Trump in July 2017, and a revised policy — which would effectively ban most transgender individuals, except for those who live in and present according to their biological sex — introduced by former Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

However, the D.C. Circuit also issued an order stating that its decision would not become final until 21 days after it issued a more in-depth opinion, which it eventually did on Mar. 9, unless the plaintiffs decided to ask for an en banc hearing.

In such a hearing, all of the judges on the D.C. Circuit would rehear and reconsider the plaintiffs’ motion contending that Kollar-Kotelly’s injunction should remain in place while the merits of the ban are being argued in court, lest transgender military members or prospective recruits be discharged, barred from enlisting, or otherwise irreparably harmed by being banned from service.

“The fact that the three other nationwide preliminary injunctions which had been in place are now stayed has no impact on the continued effectiveness of this Court’s preliminary injunction,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her opinion on Tuesday. “On October 30, 2017, this Court ordered Defendants to maintain the status quo as it relates to the accession and retention of transgender individuals in the military. That preliminary injunction remains in place until the D.C. Circuit issues its mandate vacating the preliminary injunction. Lacking a mandate, Defendants remain bound by this Court’s preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo.”

Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling rebukes the Trump administration, which, shortly after the Mar. 9 opinion, began making moves to implement the Mattis Plan, claiming the Pentagon would begin enforcing the policy starting on April 12.

Under the policy, transgender individuals who have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria will be allowed to serve as long as they remain in their assigned at birth and do not pursue transition, either with hormones or gender confirmation surgery. There is an exemption for currently-serving transgender service members who have already transitioned under the Obama administration’s “open service” policy but require no additional treatment.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which are representing the plaintiffs in the D.C. case, praised the court for upbraiding the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration cannot circumvent the judicial process just to fast track its baseless, unfair ban on transgender service members,” Jennifer Levi, the director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement. “The dedicated transgender troops who show up every day to do their duty and serve their country deserve justice, and that includes requiring this administration to follow the ordinary rules of judicial process.”

“Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling today makes crystal clear that her order enjoining the ban from going into effect remains in place,” added Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, added. “As a result, the government may not take any steps to institute a ban on transgender troops.”

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