Court partly blocks Trump ban on transgender troops in U.S. military
(UPI) — A federal court on Monday partly blocked President Donald Trump’s order that aims to keep transgender persons from joining the U.S. armed forces.
Washington, D.C., District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the memo directing the Pentagon to revert to its transgender policy prior to June 2016 may not be enforced as a lawsuit works its way through the courts.
Kollar-Kotelly said a group of transgender military members are likely to win their suit against the Trump administration, and lifted part of the ban pending the results of the case.
“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,” she wrote in the ruling. “In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects.”
On Aug. 25, Trump signed a memorandum saying the department may not recruit people who identify as transgender and may not use federal funds to provide medical treatment, including sex-reassignment surgeries and medications.
Monday’s ruling left the ban on medical treatments in place.
The Department of Defense prohibited transgender individuals from serving openly in the military until June 2016, when the Obama administration repealed the law.
“In my judgment, the previous administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects,” Trump’s memo read.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement Monday calling Trump’s ban “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“This is the first decision striking down President Trump’s ban, but it won’t be the last. As all of these cases move forward, we will continue to work to ensure that transgender service members receive the equal treatment they deserve,” the organization said.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced a bill in the House this month that would overrule Trump’s effort to bar transgender people from the military.
“The bill is trying to make good on the promise we made last year… it allows them to continue to serve, recognizes their value and gives them the opportunity to have identity surgery if necessary,” Speier told UPI. “This decision by the president, I think, confounds the secretary of defense and most of the people in the Pentagon.
“The bill is trying to make good on the promise we made last year when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban, so they could come out into the open so to speak, without retribution, It’s about maintaining the status quo for those looking into possibly serving and supporting those individuals already in the military.
“We have anywhere from five to 15,000 service members who are transgender,” Speier said, who sits on the House Committee on Armed Services.
Speier’s bill would allow individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to enlist in the military, while also providing protections for transgender service members who are already in uniform. The bill also would prevent service members from being involuntarily kicked out out based on their gender identity, which would extend to job or rank promotions and re-enlistment contracts.
The bill was introduced to the House Committee on Armed Services and has bipartisan support with five co-sponsors. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced an identical bill in the Senate. That bill also has support from both parties, including U.S. Navy veteran Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
In August, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Trump’s directive violates the Constitution’s “equal protection” clause and would constitute discrimination.
“Thousands of transgender troops currently serve in the U.S. military and thousands more have served and given their lives for the country throughout our history,” the commission said in a statement. “These military men and women honor our country and defend all its citizens with their service.”
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