Military Law

Federal judge bars enforcement of plan to ban transgender people in the military

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U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has issued a preliminary injunction that bans the Trump administration from implementing plans to ban transgender people in the military.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued the preliminary injunction Monday, report the Washington Post, Think Progress and the Associated Press.

Kollar-Kotelly enjoined enforcement of a directive by President Trump that would ban transgender recruits and would oust transgender people already in the military. She did not rule on another section of the directive that banned using military resources to pay for sex reassignment surgeries. Her opinion is here (PDF).

The judge said the plaintiffs had shown they were likely to succeed on their claim that the plan violates their due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Kollar-Kotelly didn’t rule on the use of government resources to pay for sex reassignment surgeries for service members because the plaintiffs had not shown they would be impacted by it.

Before Trump’s Aug. 25 directive, the Department of Defense had announced it would allow openly transgender people to enlist in the military beginning on Jan. 1, 2018, and that transgender people were protected from being discharged because of their gender identities.

Trump’s directive reversed those policies by indefinitely extending the ban on transgender recruits and by requiring the military to oust transgender service members no later than March 23, 2018.

Kollar-Kotelly noted that, before issuing the directive, Trump had tweeted that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”

The plaintiffs—transgender individuals who are current and aspiring service members—had argued that the directive was based on a desire to express disapproval of transgender people rather than legitimate concerns concerning military effectiveness or budget constraints.

Kollar-Kotelly said several factors suggest the plaintiffs’ claims are meritorious. They include “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.”

A working group established by former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had recommended last year that transgender people should be allowed to serve openly in the military. The group said that banning qualified transgender service members undermines military effectiveness and readiness because the policy creates unexpected vacancies and additional recruitment.

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