Transgender service members who have been barred from military service by Donald Trump’s ban can sue the Pentagon, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge George Russell ruled on Wednesday, Aug. 20, that transgender men and women who are otherwise eligible for service can challenge the Pentagon’s recently enacted ban, Stars and Stripes reports.
“By its plain language, then, the [transgender policy] discriminates on the basis of transgender status,” Russell wrote. “In addition the plan categorically bars transgender individuals who have transitioned to their preferred gender — a recommended treatment to alleviate the distress dysphoria causes.”
Russell’s decision allows a challenge to the ban to proceed, though he said that five of the six service members who originally brought the case to court could not continue with the lawsuit as they had been allowed to remain in service despite the ban.
The ban, enacted in April, prevents transgender troops from serving openly in their preferred gender unless they have already been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or have medically transitioned.
It also bans new recruits from enlisting if they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and received medical treatment — such as hormone therapy or gender confirmation surgery.
However, those diagnosed with gender dysphoria who have not begun to transition will be allowed to join, but must serve in their biological sex, effectively forcing transgender people who wish to serve in the military back into the closet.
In a statement, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Josh Block said the ruling was “a victory for our clients who want the opportunity to serve their country openly and freely in our armed forces.”
He added: “We will continue to hold the government accountable for their attempts to ban trans people from the military and shut down judicial review of the policy.”
It has been heavily criticized by LGBTQ organizations, and in March the House of Representatives passed a resolution formally condemning it for being detrimental to national security and for being based on “flawed scientific and medical assertions.”
Trump himself touted some of that flawed science in June, when he tried to justify the ban by saying transgender people take “massive amounts of drugs.”
“You’re in the military, you’re not allowed to take drugs,” Trump told British press, adding, “They have no choice, they have to [take the drugs]. And you would actually have to break rules and regulations to have that.”
Transgender health care experts and advocates called his claims false, and slammed the president’s “ignorance” about trans people’s ability to serve.