Federal Judge Rules That Trump’s Transgender Military Ban Can Move Forward

A federal judge in Maryland on Thursday cleared the way for the Trump administration to implement broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military.

In a six-page ruling, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III rescinded a preliminary injunction he had issued in November 2017 that barred the Trump administration from implementing its policy.

“The court is bound by the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the preliminary injunctions in their entirety,” Russell wrote, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in January that lifted similar injunctions in cases filed in California and Washington state. The Supreme Court had left in place the order issued in Maryland until it was rescinded Thursday.

The Defense Department said in a statement after Thursday’s ruling that current policy allowing transgender troops to serve “will remain in effect until the Department issues further guidance, which will be forthcoming in the near future.”

American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Joshua Block, the lead attorney for the transgender service members in Maryland, said the ruling Thursday does “concrete, severe harm.” Block called it “particularly outrageous and irrational” that the government would not accommodate five of his clients who were on the cusp of enlisting or being commissioned as officers.

“It’s petty, and it is disappointing when you drill down to the level of real people who are making career plans,” he said.

The Washington Post notes:

The case in Maryland was filed days after Trump formally ordered the Pentagon to ban the recruitment of openly transgender people. The president surprised military leaders and members of Congress by abruptly announcing the proposed ban in tweets in July 2017. In announcing the change, Trump said he was “doing the military a great favor” by “coming out and just saying it.”

The Trump policy reverses an Obama-era rule allowing transgender men and women to enlist and instead bars entry to those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and are seeking to transition physically. The Trump administration’s policy also makes exceptions for about 900 transgender individuals who already are serving openly and for others who say they will serve in accordance with their birth gender.

Lawyers challenging the proposed policy in the D.C. case, Doe v. Trump, said Thursday that the injunction in their lawsuit remains for at least 21 days after the court issues its final signed ruling, which it has yet to do.

The group GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, a legal group in that case, said the injunction in Doe would “remain in place at least 21 days after the DC Circuit Court of Appeals releases its signed ruling in that case.”

“The Trump administration keeps pushing to enforce a senseless and harmful ban,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAAD’s Transgender Rights Project director. “There is no question this ban weakens our military by excluding from service transgender people who meet all of the military’s rigorous readiness and medical standards. With [the injunction] still in place, we will continue fighting this discriminatory ban.”