Federal judge lifts last of injunctions against transgender military ban
The last injunction blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpHickenlooper swipes at Trump in campaign launch: He’s ‘destroying our democracy’ Overnight Defense: Pentagon asked to house up to 5,000 migrant children | Judge lifts last injunction against transgender ban | Senators voice anger over problems with military housing | General warns ISIS waiting to resurge Cummings says he needs to examine Cohen’s testimony further amid GOP allegations of perjury MORE’s transgender military ban from taking effect was lifted by a federal judge Thursday, moving the administration closer to being able to enforce the policy.
In a six-page order issued on Thursday, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Judge George Russell III wrote that he was lifting his injunction because “the court is bound by the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the preliminary injunctions in their entirety.”
Though courts have now ruled to lift all four injunctions that had been placed on the policy, advocates for transgender troops say one remains in effect due to a stipulation in that court’s ruling.
In a statement, the Pentagon said the existing policy allowing open service by transgender people will stay in place until “further guidance” is issued in the “near future.”
“The department is pleased with the district court’s decision to stay the final injunction against the department’s proposed transgender policy,” Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in the statement. “The 2016 policy will remain in effect until the department issues further guidance, which will be forthcoming in the near future.”
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in January to stay two of the injunctions. That followed a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier in January that lifted another of the injunctions.
Transgender troops have been serving openly since June 2016 when the Obama administration lifted the previous ban on their service.
In July 2017, President Trump tweeted he would reverse the open service policy, saying he would “not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
Four lawsuits were filed against the ban, and lower courts in all four had issued injunctions blocking the policy from taking effect while the suits work their way through the court system.
In March 2018, then-Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon asked to house up to 5,000 migrant children | Judge lifts last injunction against transgender ban | Senators voice anger over problems with military housing | General warns ISIS waiting to resurge Federal judge lifts last of injunctions against transgender military ban Trump’s claims of defeating ISIS roil Congress MORE released a policy that would allow transgender people to serve if they do so in their biological sex.
Transgender people and their advocates argue the Mattis policy is still effectively a ban akin to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.
The ruling issued Thursday stemmed from a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of six transgender service members.
The ACLU called Thursday’s decision “deeply disappointing” and vowed to continue fighting the Trump policy.
“Each and every claim made by President Trump to justify this ban can be easily debunked by the conclusions drawn from the Department of Defense’s own review process,” Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement. “Our clients are brave men and women who should be able to continue serving their country ably and honorably without being discriminated against by their own commander in chief.”
The injunction ruled on by the D.C. Circuit Court is still in place, though. Advocates say it remains in force for the time being to allow the plaintiff’s lawyers time to decide whether to request a rehearing by the appeals court’s full bench.
The lawyers in the case have not said yet whether they will request a rehearing. But in statements, the organizations leading the suit expressed confidence they would ultimately prevail in striking down the Trump policy.
“The Trump administration keeps pushing to enforce a senseless and harmful ban,” Jennifer Levi, GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project director, said in a statement. “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 Doe injunction still in place, we will continue fighting this discriminatory ban.”