A federal judge has blocked President Trump’s directive to ban transgender people from serving in the United States military. A Washington based federal judge did not mince words in her opinion that President Trump’s directive lacked a factual basis, stating that President Trump’s decision “does not appear to be supported by any facts. There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all. In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects.”
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has put in place a temporary injunction as of Monday, October 30th, ruling that transgender service members already serving have a strong case, and would win their lawsuit against President Trump’s directive banning transgender service members from military service.
This is a significant setback for President Trump who released his decision on transgender persons serving in the United States military via twitter. The President tweeted, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail.” The move caught some military leaders off guard as it was recognized Secretary of Defense James Mattis would have to give the order himself in order for any transgender ban to go into effect. To date, Secretary Mattis has not given this order.
President Trump’s directive to ban transgender persons from the United States military was supposed to go into effect in March, but with this latest injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, transgender persons currently serving are not in danger of being kicked out, and new enlistees who identify as transgender are permitted to enter military service.
What this decision means is that the official policy of transgender persons serving in the United States military will revert back to what the Obama administration issued after the Pentagon determined there was no basis to exclude transgender persons from the military. Pentagon officials under the Obama administration came to this finding after reviewing medical care records, the impact on military readiness, and additional factors pertinent to the overall health of the United States military.
Back in August of 2016 the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a lawsuit against President Trump’s transgender ban on behalf of six active duty service members who had made their status known to their chain of command. The Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Shannon Minter said, “This is a complete victory for our plaintiffs and all transgender service members who are now once again able to serve on equal terms and without the threat of being discharged.”
In response to the judge’s ruling, the Defense Department said, “Plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the President ordered, and because none of the Plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service.”
The six active duty service members being represented by the NCLR have asserted that their Fifth Amendment rights to equal protection are being violated with the directive President Trump issued.
The Trump administration has not made any additional comment on Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling aside from what the Defense Department has issued. If the Trump administration wants to lift this injunction, they will likely have to go all the way to the Supreme Court, possibly causing a rift between military officials reviewing the effects of a transgender ban and President Trump.
President Trump’s directive to ban transgender service members also includes a ban on the military funding of sex reassignment surgery, contending that this is not a necessary medical procedure and would be an unnecessary expense which would take away funding from other parts of the military. Presently, the issue of who is responsible for paying for the sex reassignment surgery of a transgender service member is still being debated with transgender supporters claiming the United States military is still responsible for covering sex reassignment costs.
This is definitely a hot-button issue for both sides where each has a legitimate argument. With the billions of dollars it costs to support the United States military already, many taxpayers feel that paying for sex reassignment surgery is a waste of money. On the other side of this issue, openly transgender persons serving in the military have done so honorably, which is more than can be said for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.