WASHINGTON — A federal court in Washington on Monday blocked President Trump’s directive that prohibited transgender people from serving in the military.
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling restored the Obama-era policy allowing transgender troops to openly serve in the armed services.
“As far as the court is aware at this preliminary stage, 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,” Kollar-Kotelly said.
In 2016, the Obama administration placed protection of gender rights on par with race, religion, color, sex and sexual orientation. Transgender troops could serve openly, and individuals were to be allowed to openly enlist for the first time in the military by Jan. 1, 2018.
The Pentagon was blindsided in July when Trump abruptly declared on Twitter that the military would not “accept or allow” transgender troops to serve “in any capacity.”
A major change of Pentagon policy is typically subject to months, if not years, of study and legal vetting before it’s rolled out. In this case, Trump told Defense Secretary James Mattis a day before he put out the decision on social media.
The President’s ban immediately drew rebukes from many war veterans and LGBT advocacy groups, resulting in lawsuits filed in California, Maryland and Washington State.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders also sued the administration in Washington, D.C., in August.
The administration had insisted the case be dismissed on the ground the Pentagon had launched a six-month review to study the effects of a ban before it could be fully implemented.
Dozens of protesters gather in Times Square to show their anger at Trump’s decision to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military on July 26, 2017.
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The Pentagon had until Feb. 21 to submit final plans on how it would implement the ban, including how it would handle thousands of transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and Air Force members now in uniform.
It said active-duty service members, including the six unnamed service members and two recruits represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, would not be affected.
Kollar-Kotelly disagreed with that claim in her ruling, noting “the memorandum unequivocally directs the military to prohibit indefinitely the accession of transgender individuals and to authorize their discharge. This decision has already been made.”
The ruling was not a total defeat for the White House — the judge upheld part of Trump’s directive that blocked use of federal funds for gender reassignment surgery in the military because the plaintiffs’ attorneys did not establish the impact of that money being held back.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said, “We disagree with the court’s ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps.”