Metro Weekly

Maryland court lifts injunction on Trump’s transgender military ban

One last injunction remains in place before the Trump administration begins rolling out its proposed ban

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore – Photo: mdd.uscourts.gov.

A federal judge in Maryland has lifted the last remaining injunction preventing the Trump administration from implementing its preferred policy barring most transgender military personnel from serving in the Armed Forces.

U.S. District Judge George Russell III of the District of Maryland issued an order lifting the injunction in the Stone v. Trump case challenging the so-called “Mattis Plan.” Under that plan, transgender individuals who are already serving in the military to remain under two conditions: 1) that they have never been diagnosed with gender dysphoria; and 2) that they remain in and present (in grooming standards) according to their assigned sex at birth.

Under that same plan, transgender individuals who wish to enlist in the military but have not yet done so would be barred from serving. Despite evidence to the contrary (during the last year of the Obama administration), the Trump administration has claimed the presence of transgender individuals harms military readiness and disrupts unit cohesion, thereby lessening the effectiveness of the Armed Forces. 

In his decision, Russell said that he was staying the decision because he is “bound” by an earlier Supreme Court decision that lifted injunctions issued in two challenges to the ban that were filed in Washington State and California. 

Although courts have ruled in the Trump administration’s favor in all four cases challenging the ban, one last injunction will remain in place until at least 21 days after the D.C. Circuit issues a signed ruling in the case that clarifies and expands upon a preliminary decision issued in January. In that preliminary decision, the circuit court found that  D.C. federal district court failed to look more closely at the Mattis Plan and whether it is substantially different from the broad-based, categorical ban originally floated by President Trump in July 2017.

The plaintiffs in that case, known as Doe v. Trump, could also decide to request that the full D.C. Circuit rehear their motions seeking to keep District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s preliminary injunction intact — which would further delay the rollout of the Mattis Plan.

The Pentagon said in a statement that the existing policy allowing transgender soldiers to serve openly will remain in effect until “further guidance” is issued (presumably by the D.C. Circuit) in the “near future,” reports The Hill.

Adding to the frustration of LGBTQ advocates is that courts have thus far seemed to disregard their contentions that the Mattis Plan is based on deliberate misrepresentations of the science surrounding gender dysphoria and transgender health care.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which are representing the plaintiffs in the Doe case and the Stockman case out of California, blasted yet another decision that seems to be paving the way for eventual discharges of transgender individuals.

“The Trump administration keeps pushing to enforce a senseless and harmful ban,” Jennifer Levi, the director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, said in a statement. “There is no question this ban weakens our military by excluding from service transgender people who meet all of the military’s rigorous readiness and medical standards. With the Doe injunction still in place, we will continue fighting this discriminatory ban.”

Shannon Minter, the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, pointed to testimony offered by transgender service members to a congressional subcommittee last week that he said proves transgender individuals are capable of serving their country. 

“Enforcing this ban would do nothing but deprive our military of needed talent, weaken military readiness, and harm national security,” Minter said in a statement. “We are confident it will ultimately be struck down for good.”

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

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