WASHINGTON — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President Bill Clinton has issued an order clarifying her recent injunction against the Trump administration’s ban on “transgender” enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces, and has outlined that the government must allow the enlistment beginning Jan. 1.
“[The previous] order was to revert to the status quo with regard to accession and retention that existed before the issuance of the presidential memorandum—that is, the retention and accession policies established in the June 30, 2016 directive-type memorandum as modified by Secretary of Defense James Mattis on June 30, 2017,” wrote U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
“Those policies allowed for the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on January 1, 2018,” she continued. “Any action by any of the defendants that changes this status quo is preliminarily enjoined.”
The Trump administration had asked for clarification about Kollar-Kelly’s October injunction, in which she opined that the ban on transgender enlistment was “causing … serious ongoing harms.” The government noted that Gen. Mattis had been granted time by the president to determine whether or not allowing those who identify as the opposite sex could have any negative impact on military readiness.
Kollar-Kelly ruled that the policy permitting transgender enlistment, as initially issued under the Obama administration and amended by Mattis, must move forward.
As previously reported, Trump announced his decision to reinstate the ban on transgenders in the military in July, advising that the issue is a distraction and would place a burden on the finances of the Armed Forces.
“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” he tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail. Thank you.”
Weeks later, five service members filed suit to challenge the ban, with the assistance of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders.
“Because they identified themselves as transgender in reliance on [the government’s] earlier promise [of lifting the ban], Plaintiffs have lost the stability and certainty they had in their careers and benefits, including post-military and retirement benefits that depend on the length of their service,” the lawsuit read.
Kollar-Kotelly issued an injunction in favor of the complainants in October, writing in part, “On the record before the court, there is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effective on the military at all. In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects.”
After the government sought clarification on whether or not her order “prohibit[s] the secretary of defense from exercising his discretion to defer the January 1, 2018 effective date,” Kollar-Kotelly advised that there could be no postponement.
On Nov. 21, a second federal judge issued an injunction against the enlistment ban. U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis, appointed to the bench by then-President George H.W. Bush wrote that the “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy change.”