Metro Weekly

Circuit court rejects Trump’s request to halt transgender military enlistment

Administration had previously asked for delay of Jan. 1 deadline for accepting out transgender recruits

Donald Trump – Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Last week, a federal circuit court rejected the Trump administration’s request to stay an order from a federal judge that opened the door for out transgender people to begin serving in the U.S. military.

The White House and Pentagon had requested that U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly place a hold on an order she issued in October preventing the Trump administration from enacting its proposed ban on transgender service members. Without the stay, the Armed Services are scheduled to begin accepting out transgender recruits on Jan. 1.

Both Kollar-Kotelly and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration’s requests for a halt of the order preventing the implementation of the transgender ban. Specifically, they rejected the administration’s argument that the military would not be prepared to begin accepting transgender recruits by Jan. 1.

Under timelines established by the Obama Department of Defense, the military was expected to begin accepting recruits on July 1, the one-year anniversary of the announcement that those transgender individuals already in the military would be able to serve openly without fear of being forcibly discharged. That date was later postponed to Jan. 1 to accommodate requests by military officials.

Additionally, the Department of Defense issued a memo on Dec. 8 indicating that it was preparing to accept transgender enlistees — something that undercut the administration’s claims that it was ill-prepared to deal with the potential influx of new transgender recruits.

“The necessary preparations to allow qualified transgender Americans to enlist have been underway for some time,” Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement. “Former and current military officials have confirmed that, and DoD guidance issued December 8 makes it crystal clear. There is no justification for any more delay.

“The military is ready, the country is ready, and the courts have weighed in. Qualified transgender people are ready to sign up and risk their lives in defense of this nation,” Levi added. “Our country needs them. It’s time to let them serve.”

In the underlying lawsuit challenging the ban, GLAD and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing several anonymous active-duty transgender service members, argues that the ban is unconstitutional because it unfairly singles out a group of people and discriminates against them based on reasons unrelated to their qualifications. They also argue the ban stigmatizes qualified transgender troops and threatens their professions, livelihoods, health care coverage, and retirement benefits if the are ever forcibly discharged for acknowledging their gender identity publicly.

“We are grateful to the D.C. Court of Appeals for recognizing that our plaintiffs simply want to serve their country, and that there is no basis whatsoever for delaying the enlistment of qualified transgender applicants,” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “Experience has shown that allowing qualified transgender candidates to serve strengthens our military and our country. We cannot allow this administration to demean dedicated service members and weaken our military based on false stereotypes and irrational bias.”

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