Transgender people will continue to be allowed to enter the U.S. military, a federal court judge ruled Monday, partially blocking President Donald Trump’s policy that prevented them from serving.
“The court finds that a number of factors — including 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 — strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious,” Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a 76-page memo.
Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court of Colombia, said Trump’s attempts to ban transgender people in August cannot be implemented while the case is being reviewed in court.
Trump announced in July that he would ban transgender people from the military, reversing a policy made by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Transgender service members sued in August to try to block the ban, which had not yet gone into effect, and Kollar-Kotelly granted them an injunction halting enforcement of it until their case is resolved.
Kollar-Kotelly agreed with the plaintiff, who said the refusal of enlistment would violate their rights as U.S. citizens and inherently “impose inequality and risk of discharge and denial of accession.” She added that her ruling would return the case of transgender people to the “status quo.”
The ruling blocked a ban on new recruits and the discharge of currently active military personnel but did not touch the president's ban on government funding towards gender reassignment surgery.
Following his policy announcement on Twitter, Trump signed a memo in August that directed the military not to accept transgender people as recruits and to discharge active members by March 23, 2018, and halted the use of government funds for sex-reassignment surgeries for active-duty personnel unless the process was already underway.
She criticized Trump for his announcement which hit Twitter like a bombshell “without any of the formality or deliberative processes that generally accompany the development and announcement of major policy changes that will gravely affect the lives of many Americans.
"All of the reasons proffered by the President for excluding transgender individuals from the military, in this case, were not merely unsupported, but were actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions, and judgment of the military itself," she wrote.
“The court saw through the smoke screens that the government tried to throw up to hide what is actually going on here, which is straight-on bias and prejudice against transgender people,” said the plaintiffs’ lead attorney Jennifer Levi, director of the transgender rights project for the anti-discrimination group LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.
Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the suit was premature because the “Defense Department was actively reviewing such service requirements, as the president ordered,” adding that no action was to take place until after the issue had been fully reviewed.
However, Kollar-Kotelly said she decided not to wait as the government’s claims “wither away on scrutiny.”
The judge said the military previously commissioned a study that debunked concerns about unit cohesion, military readiness, or healthcare costs related to transgender troops. That report estimated there were 2,450 active-duty transgender service members and 1,510 in the military reserves.