WASHINGTON — A federal judge has denied the Trump administration’s request to place a hold on her order allowing those who identify as the opposite sex to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1.
“In sum, having carefully considered all of the evidence before it, the court is not persuaded that Defendants will be irreparably injured by allowing the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on January 1, 2018,” Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, appointed to the bench by then-President Bill Clinton, wrote in an opinion on Monday.
“To the extent Defendants argue that accepting transgender individuals on January 1, 2018 would harm military readiness, the court directs defendants to the court’s finding in its October 30, 2017 memorandum opinion that, on the record before the court, there is absolutely no support for the claim that service of transgender individuals would have any negative effect on the military at all,” she asserted. Read the order in full here.
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.”
However, while Kollar-Kotelly blocked Trump’s ban from being enforced, she also declined to place a restraining order on the government ban on paying for “sex reassignment” surgeries.
“[N]o plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are substantially likely to be impacted by the sex reassignment surgery directive, and none have standing to challenge that directive,” she wrote as none of the plaintiffs had proven that they would not be able to obtain their desired operations before the prohibition took effect in March 2018.
After the government sought clarification on whether or not Kollar-Kotelly’s enlistment order “prohibit[s] the secretary of defense from exercising his discretion to defer the January 1, 2018 effective date,” she advised that there could be no postponement.
The U.S. Department of Justice asked for a stay on Wednesday, but Kollar-Kotelly opined that there was no reason for enlistment not to go forward as per the Obama administration’s original memorandum.
The Pentagon says that it will comply with the ruling for now, but is also working on appealing the order.
“As required by recent federal district court orders, the Department of Defense recently announced it will begin processing transgender applicants for military service on January 1, 2018. This policy will be implemented while the Department of Justice appeals those court orders,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement.
“The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered DoD to implement, effective January 1, 2018, the accession policy issued by former Secretary Carter in 2016. DoD and the Department of Justice are actively pursuing relief from those court orders in order to allow an ongoing policy review scheduled to be completed before the end of March,” it explained.