Supreme Court Moves Trump’s Trans Military Ban Step Closer to Implementation

By catherine lizette gonzalez Jan 22, 2019

Today (January 22), the Supreme Court of the United States moved the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people in the military a step closer to implementation as litigation moves forward in lower courts. The 5-4 decision lifted some nationwide injuctions that previously halted implementation of the policy, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in dissent.

There is one injunction that was not part of the cases brought before the high court, so the ban can’t be implemented just yet, Vox reports. But if that case is placed on hold, the Trump administration can kick openly transgender troops out of the military and deny other transgender people from enlisting.

President Donald Trump first proposed the policy in a series of tweets back in July of 2017, writing, "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."

It was later formalized via a White House memo and a U.S. Department of Defense statement that sought to reverse an Obama-era policy allowing transgender people to enlist in the armed forces and receive access to gender-affirming medical care. The ban was expected to go into effect in March 2018, but federal courts halted it, forcing the military to allow transgender recruits to enlist beginning January 1, 2018. 

In March 2018, the Trump administration issued a revised plan via a memo that stated, "transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria—individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery—are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”

Last month, Trump’s lawyers urged justices to hear immediate appeals from trial court rulings that had blocked the policy, The New York Times reports. But the Supreme Court rejected those requests. 

Several transgender rights organizations decried today’s decision, including Lambda Legal, which filed a lawsuit challenging the ban last August. "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," Lambda Legal counselor Peter Renn said in a statement. “We will redouble our efforts to send this discriminatory ban to the trash heap of history where it belongs."

"The Court’s extraordinary action today puts the honorable service of thousands of troops and military readiness on the line," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. "President Trump’s attempts to defend this ban are as farcical as ever and only serve to defame thousands of transgender troops."