In defeat for Trump, judge blocks
transgender military ban
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[October 31, 2017]
By Andrew Chung
(Reuters) - A federal judge in Washington
on Monday blocked President Donald Trump from banning transgender people
from serving in the U.S. military, handing a victory to transgender
service members who accused the president of violating their
Trump announced in July that he would ban transgender people from the
military in a move that would reverse Democratic former President Barack
Obama's policy of accepting them and halt years of efforts to eliminate
barriers to military service based on sexual orientation or gender
The transgender service members sued in August to try to block the ban,
which had not yet gone into effect, and U.S. District Judge Colleen
Kollar-Kotelly granted them an injunction halting enforcement of it
until their case is resolved.
The service members asserted that Trump's policy violated their rights
to due process and equal protection under the law under the U.S.
Constitution. Kollar-Kotelly said the plaintiffs were likely to succeed
in their claim that the ban was unconstitutional because the
administration's reasons for it "do not appear to be supported by any
After his policy announcement on Twitter, Trump signed a memorandum in
August that directed the military not to accept transgender people as
recruits and halted the use of government funds for sex-reassignment
surgeries for active-duty personnel unless the process was already
The memo called on Defense Secretary James Mattis to submit a plan to
Trump by Feb. 21 on how to implement the changes, and the Pentagon has
created a panel of senior officials for that purpose. In the meantime,
the current policy of allowing transgender people to serve remains in
Mattis in June already had delayed allowing transgender recruits to join
the U.S. armed forces on July 1 as previously scheduled.
The judge tossed out the suit's challenge to the sex-reassignment
surgery directive, saying none of the plaintiffs had shown they would be
impacted by that prohibition.
"This is a hugely important decision and confirms that transgender
people can and should be able to serve in the military if they are
qualified to do so," said the plaintiffs' lead attorney, Jennifer Levi.
"The court saw through the smoke screens that the government tried to
throw up to hide what is actually going on here, which is straight-on
bias and prejudice against transgender people," added Levi, director of
the transgender rights project for the anti-discrimination group GLBTQ
Legal Advocates & Defenders.
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President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. military personnel
at Naval Air Station Sigonella following the G7 Summit, in
Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
The Justice Department said it was disappointed in the ruling and
evaluating its next steps. Spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said the suit was
premature because the "Defense Department is actively reviewing such
service requirements, as the president ordered, and because none of the
plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current
policies on military service."
Trump's action appealed to his hard-line conservative supporters.
The president in February also rescinded protections put in place
under Obama for transgender public school students.
The judge's action marked the latest legal setback suffered by Trump
on policies he has pursued as president. Courts also have blocked
Trump's latest version of a travel ban on people from several
Muslim-majority countries, and dealt him setbacks on policies on
so-called sanctuary cities and environmental rules.
The service members who sued Trump, Secretary of Defense James
Mattis and military leaders in August had been serving openly as
transgender people in the U.S. Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. They
said Trump's ban discriminated against them based on their sex and
They also said they relied on the 2016 policy put in place by Obama
to reveal they are transgender and called Trump's reversal unfair,
arbitrary and a violation of their privacy rights.
The Trump administration argued that transgender people might harm
military unit cohesion and that they suffer medical conditions that
could limit their ability to perform duties or deploy.
The judge said the military previously commissioned a study that
debunked concerns about unit cohesion, military readiness, or
healthcare costs related to transgender troops. That report
estimated there were 2,450 active-duty service members and 1,510 in
the military reserves.
"In short, the military concerns purportedly underlying the
president's decision had been studied and rejected by the military
itself," Kollar-Kotelly wrote.
Other suits also have been filed against Trump's ban.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Additional reporting by
Daniel Trotta in New York and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing
by Will Dunham)
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