A federal judge has ordered the U.S. military to resume admitting transgender service members by January 1, 2018, thereby reinstating former President Barack Obama’s landmark policy.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued a presidential memorandum directing Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke to “return to the longstanding policy and practice on military service by transgender individuals that was in place prior to June 2016,” and to halt the use of military “resources to fund sex reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel.”
The news comes hot on the heels of an August court ruling by the U.S. District Court that ruled that the president’s memorandum banning new transgender recruits from becoming service members could not be enforced while the case was still under legal review.
According to NBC News, while delivering her ruling on Monday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, clarified that her order means that the military must abide by the Obama-era policies that were defined in a “June 30, 2016, directive-type memorandum,” which granted transgender individuals the right to enlist from January 1, 2018.
“Any action by any of the Defendants that changes this status quo is preliminarily enjoined,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her ruling.
Before the June 2016 Obama-era legislation that lifted the ban on transgender people from serving in the military, the Defense Department guidelines defined transgender people as “sexual deviants.” But on June 30 of last year, former Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter announced that “transgender Americans may serve openly” and further stated that they could “no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.”
Carter also said that the Pentagon would cover any medical costs of those in uniform who were due to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
In August, Judge Kollar-Kotelly extrapolated at length that she believed the plaintiffs in the case, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, were likely to succeed based on an argument that President Trump’s transgender ban is a violation of their Fifth Amendment right to due process. The case was initially brought to court on behalf of six unnamed service members and two recruits.
“The court finds that a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the president’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious,” the judge wrote last month.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]