Parts of the Trump administration’s new transgender military policy have been blocked by a federal court. On Monday, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled a directive issued by the president cannot be enforced while a case disputing the policy change is under court review.
In June of 2016, the policy included a directive that said transgender service members could serve openly, and would not be discharged solely for being transgender individuals. A second procedure set forth by the Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) detailed the procedures that would facilitate a service member transitioning genders.
Just over a year later, President Donald J. Trump announced that he intended to reverse the policy. In August, he signed a presidential memo that banned transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity, and further prohibited the military from paying for gender transition surgery. The ban also prevented new transgender recruits from enlisting.
The president’s decision prompted a lawsuit against the administration, brought by GLAAD and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, on behalf of six unnamed service members and two recruits.
According to Monday’s decision, the military cannot remove transgender service members and it must continue to provide medical care for them, although recruitment of transgender troops is still delayed until Jan. 1, and the ban on funds for gender reassignment surgery remains in place.
The preliminary injunction against the ban came in the form of a 76-page memo by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who felt that the plaintiffs will likely succeed in their case as the transgender ban violates the Fifth Amendment right to due process.
The judge wrote: “The court finds that a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious.”
The president’s memo gave Defense Secretary James Mattis six months to decide the fate of transgender troops currently serving. The government says the case should be dismissed because as of now, no service member will be discharged and the plaintiffs have not been affected by the policy.
Kollar-Kotelly felt the government’s arguments for dismissal were lacking.
“The memorandum unequivocally directs the military to prohibit indefinitely the accession of transgender individuals and to authorize their discharge,” she wrote. “This decision has already been made. These directives must be executed by a date certain, and there is no reason to believe that they will not be executed. Plaintiffs have established that they will be injured by these directives, due both to the inherent inequality they impose, and the risk of discharge and denial of accession that they engender.”
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