The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the Trump administration’s request to allow it to temporarily enforce its restrictions on transgender people serving in the military, dealing a major blow to LGBT activists who call the ban cruel and irrational.
In a brief, unsigned order, the justices temporarily stayed district court injunctions that blocked the new policy pending a ruling in the 9th Circuit on the government’s appeal.
The court, however, did not agree to review the legality of the new policy, as the administration had requested.
The four liberal justices on the Court, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, objected to allowing the administration’s policy to go into effect.
The controversial policy, first announced by President Trump in July 2017 by tweet, taking military leaders by complete surprise. He tweeted at the time: “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,” Trump said. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
The order was officially released by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis in 2018, blocking individuals who have been diagnosed with a condition known as gender dysphoria from serving with limited exceptions. The ban also specifies that individuals without the condition can serve, but only if they do so according to the sex they were assigned at birth.
In a statement released after the 5-4 SCOTUS decision this morning, the Pentagon sought to clarify that its policy is not a ban on all transgender persons from the military.
“As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity. (The Department of Defense’s) proposed policy is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that DoD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world. DoD’s proposed policy is based on professional military judgment and will ensure that the U.S. Armed Forces remain the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world,” Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokesperson, told CNN.
On Tuesday, plaintiffs in the cases against the policy vowed to keep fighting.
Lambda Legal, which filed one of the lawsuits on behalf of nine individual plaintiffs and three organizations, called the Supreme Court’s Tuesday decision “perplexing.”
“For more than 30 months, transgender troops have been serving our country openly with valor and distinction, but now the rug has been ripped out from under them, once again,” Lambda Legal counsel Peter Renn said in a statement. “We will redouble our efforts to send this discriminatory ban to the trash heap of history where it belongs.”
Shortly after the court’s order, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted that the policy was “purpose-built to humiliate brave men & women seeking to serve their country.”
“Deeply concerning that #SCOTUS is allowing his ban to proceed for now,” she continued.