Supreme Court declines to review rulings against transgender military ban but lets ban proceed

FORT CARSON, CO - AUGUST 29: A U.S. Army soldier salutes during the national anthem as soldiers return home from Iraq on August 29, 2009 in Fort Carson, Colorado. The last main body, some 314 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, returned home after a year deployment in Iraq. As American forces complete their deployments, the U.S. presence in Iraq continues to decrease as part of the drawdown of American forces after more than 6 years war in Iraq. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court has done something that seems a little odd and, frankly, plainly discriminatory. In a 5-4 decision Tuesday, the high court declined to review several lower court rulings that had prevented the Trump administration from implementing a ban on transgender military service. But at the same time, the ruling allows the ban to be implemented as the legal battle continues, letting the administration begin discharging trans service members and denying them enlistment opportunities. 

The Trump administration had tried to get an expedited review of several lower court rulings that resulted in nationwide preliminary injunctions on the ban but mostly had not yet reached the appellate level. Peter Renn of Lambda Legal, a pro-LGBTQ organization that brought one of the cases in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington State, called the ruling “perplexing.”

“On the one hand denying the Trump administration’s premature request for review of lower court rulings before appellate courts have ruled and rebuffing the administration’s attempt to skirt established rules; and yet on the other allowing the administration to begin to discriminate, at least for now, as the litigation plays out,” Lambda Legal Counsel Renn said of the ruling on a policy that reverses an Obama administration rule. “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. We will redouble our efforts to send this discriminatory ban to the trash heap of history where it belongs.”

When Donald Trump first announced the policy via tweet in July 2017, he blindsided his own military advisers, who have since struggled to put together a coherent policy. Federal judges forced the military to begin accepting transgender recruits in January 2018.

The Supreme Court decision fell along ideological lines, with the court’s five conservative justices—Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—ruling in favor of disrupting the status quo while the legal battle ensues. But the court’s four liberal justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—opposed striking down the preliminary injunctions that were maintaining consistency.

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