WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military to go into effectwhile the case plays out in lower courts.
In voting five-four to reverse a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to block the policy from taking effect while lawsuits were being heard in various federal courts, the Supreme Court lifted the injunction on the policy that Trump announced via Twitter in July 2017. Trump tweeted that the ban was needed because of “tremendous medical costs and disruption” associated with having transgender members of the military.
Trump’s policy is not a ban on allowing transgender people to serve in the military, specifying that it only applies to those who seek to transition to the gender with which they identify.
“The Court’s extraordinary action today puts the honorable service of thousands of troops and military readiness on the line,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Today’s action is an attack on transgender people around the nation.”
The ban reversed an Obama-era rule that would have opened the military to transgender people. According to multiple studies, there are around 10,000 active or reserve military members who identify as transgender and could be affected by the ban.
The four more liberal justices opposed the decision of the conservative majority.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco submitted a request to the high court to look at the case last month prior to a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying that court had overstepped its authority and also disproportionately rules against Trump administration policies.
He argued that delaying the ban “posed too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality.” As a result, the administration sought emergency relief because of a “growing trend in which federal district courts… have issued nationwide injunctions … against major policy initiatives.”
This is different from the normal judicial order, where cases move through the appeals courts before being heard by the Supreme Court.
The Obama-era rule was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2017, but then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis delayed opening the military to transgender people for six months, citing the need for further study. It was just weeks later that Trump tweeted his policy to ban transgender people from the military.
“The Department is pleased with the orders issued by the Supreme Court today,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Carla Gleason. “We treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity. DoD’s proposed policy is not a ban on service by transgender persons. DoD’s proposed policy is based on professional military judgment.”
The Court’s ruling is not a final decision on the legal merits of the cases being heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that has been the subject of much of Trump’s criticism of the judicial system, and other federal courts.